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Porcelain New York

After Migrants Showed Up in Tompkins Square Park, the Adams Administration Pulled the Port-a-Potties

The Parks Department, unwilling to keep up maintenance for the port-a-potties while the park's bathrooms are being rebuilt, just got rid of them entirely.

4:30 PM EST on January 23, 2024

Last year, when the Tompkins Square Park bathrooms shut down for much-needed repairs, three port-a-potties were placed in the park to deal with the needs of the thousands of park goers who frequent the public space each day. While Tompkins Square Park has seen its regular collection of picnickers, troubadours, drug users, and dog walkers, in recent weeks it has also been a hangout for hundreds of migrant men, who often need a place to use the restroom during frigid, interminable waits outside of the city's "reticketing" center at the former St. Brigid School, where they must go every thirty days to reapply for shelter placement. 

Despite what a certain tabloid might argue, the port-a-potties were not up to the task of even the regular amount of use, and without consistent cleaning by the Parks Department, were soon overwhelmed. But some toilets were better than no toilets.

By the beginning of January, the port-a-potties were gone. Now, with the repairs to the fieldhouse poised to stretch through this fall, Tompkins Square Park is looking at an entire spring and summer without any restrooms, despite being one of the city's most popular parks. 

The East Village website EV Grieve has a breakdown of the back-and-forth saga of the port-a-potties, which were originally not included as part of the reconstruction project and only placed in the park after community pushback. Now, the Parks Department tells us the temporary toilets are gone forever. 

A forbidden port-a-potty used by worked rehabbing the Tompkins Square Park bathrooms. (Hell Gate)

A Parks Department spokesperson told Hell Gate via email that the port-a-potties "have been very difficult to clean and maintain" and were frequently vandalized. They noted that there are public restrooms located at McKinley Playground, on Fourth Street between Avenues A and B, that parkgoers can use. 

But one major issue with those restrooms at McKinley Playground? They're closed almost the entire day, as the playground is used by the adjacent PS 63, whose teachers lock the playground gates during school hours.

Councilmember Carlina Rivera told Hell Gate in a statement that Parks put the kibosh on the toilets because of "the demand seen by the increase of park goers and visitors seeking services at the reticketing and reapplication site adjacent to Tompkins."

Note the absence of portable bathrooms. (Hell Gate)

Rivera's office has reached out to City Hall with four other potential sites in the neighborhood for migrants to be able to use the bathroom, but has yet to hear back from the administration.

So where is one left to pee or poop in Alphabet City? Well, if your guess is somewhere in the park itself, a cursory glance at the ground will confirm that that's where, in fact, people are relieving themselves. Forced out of shelters, thrust into the cold of a dark New York City winter, asylum seekers have been robbed of the barest of necessities, a place to use the restroom, and they have nowhere else to go. And that's the real shit. 

Porcelain New York Rating for Tompkins Square Park: N/A, no restrooms. 

Update (5:49 p.m.): A spokesperson for New York City Emergency Management, which runs the reticketing site at St. Brigid, tells Hell Gate that extra port-a-potties have been provided to migrants inside the site, and that any migrant can use the restrooms during the site's hours of operations, which are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m..

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