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Porcelain New York

An Unholy Prospect Park Outhouse

Few things can shatter the cinematic spring charm of a perfect June weekend in New York City. But then I had to pee.

2:47 PM EDT on June 6, 2022

A port-a-pottie sits in Prospect Park's Nethermead while people frolic nearby.

Unsuspecting New Yorkers frolic nearby the portal to a unspeakably horrible dimension. (Hell Gate)

Late Saturday afternoon, I found myself in Prospect Park's Nethermead, surrounded by hundreds of blissed out New Yorkers spiking volleyballs, blowing bubbles, braiding hair, biking, screaming, kissing, and sprinting, with the kind of insanely wide grins that would be considered maniacal in almost any other circumstance.

Having just shed tears witnessing a good friend celebrate his love under the shade of a tree where tiny birds were chasing away a menacing red-tailed hawk, and fortified by several Waterloo Peach Seltzers, I felt myself neatly tucked into the fabric of this strange and wild universe that we all inhabit for a fleeting speck of time. Nothing could shake this knowledge that comes from absolute contentment.

Few things can shatter the cinematic spring charm of a perfect June weekend in New York City. But then I had to pee.

Prospect Park has six bathrooms with honest-to-god plumbing, but they are located around the 585-acre park's perimeter. The Nethermead is in a bit of a bathroom desert in the middle of the park. My closest bet was a 15-minute walk to the Lincoln Road station, but think of all the reverie I would miss on this 30-minute round trip!

A lone port-a-potty stood no more than 50 yards away from our spot, which seemed fortuitous. Blessed Persephone, smiling down upon us! Yet upon closer inspection, I noticed people opening the door to the outhouse, peering in, then immediately fleeing. One gentleman entered and exited around five minutes later with a 1,000-yard stare, headphones on, brushing away a request for comment from this reporter with a stern shake of his head.

I soon discovered what inspired this reaction to take flight and never turn back. One could try their luck at the urinal, but the smell inside could accurately be described as "tangible."

Hell Gate co-publisher Max Rivlin-Nadler expresses his feelings about the experience. (Hell Gate)

Inside, the unlucky user was confronted with a sad mound of toilet paper and excrement peeking over the lid—truly the tip of a terrifying iceberg. Atop the pile was a purple plastic unused tampon applicator, jauntily adding a pop of color to the bleak scene.

"Those are usually gross, but that was filled to the brim, so I didn't want to get anywhere near it," said Vivian Markel, a 26-year-old who lives in Manhattan and was hanging out in the park with some friends.

"Generally bathrooms are just horrible in New York, especially as someone who pees a lot because I drink a lot of water," Markel told Hell Gate. "The more bathrooms, the merrier, of course. If you're doing some sort of petition for more bathrooms, I'll sign it."

She added, "I'm gonna try and find someplace. Maybe I'll have to go in nature now."

Brooklynites Justin and Juno Krebs also swiftly determined that they could not abide the conditions in this port-a-john.

"It was overfilled to the brim. This is the first time that I've encountered one that was overfilled to the brim," Justin told us, before considering the statement again.

"In fact, that grammatically doesn't make sense. Overfilled past the brim. One does not get overfilled to the brim."

While we are hard-pressed to think of any port-a-potties in New York City that have elicited any kind of pleasure (if you know of any drop, us a line), rare is the outhouse that is completely unusable. And how often are these things, um, refreshed during spectacular spring weekends? This toilet featured no service log (and no toilet paper either) on the wall, so its recent past was obscured from recorded history.

We asked these questions of the Prospect Park Alliance, the not-for-profit organization with an $11 million annual budget that oversees the day-to-day operations of the (very lovely) park. "It may take a few days as we are currently in our busiest time of year, but I should have more to share with you soon," a spokesperson told us. We'll update when that happens. [Scroll down for an update.]

According to the alliance's capital projects tracker, there are two new sets of restrooms being constructed in the Tennis House near the 9th Street entrance and in the northeast corner of the park, which will be finished in 2023 and 2026, respectively.

Joel Ramirez and Paola Calle, both 19, are Queens residents who were visiting Prospect Park for the first time. They said they had been walking for 20 minutes in search of relief.

"There should definitely be more [restrooms] for large parks like this, it seems like you have to walk very far to get to one that's not like this. Or maybe, if they more frequently take this stuff out," Ramirez said.

"In Forest Park, it's a lot better, because everywhere you go there's usually large buildings where they'll have regular restrooms. You can always find one," Calle added. "But not much here."

Minutes later, a group of three women briskly walked up to the outhouse, and were warned away by Markel, who had returned from the opposite direction. Markel then began giving these women directions to someplace private, just a five-minute walk up the hill.

"Yes, we need more bathrooms, sorry, we have to go," one of the woman said when we tried to chat. "Can't talk, this is critical."

[UPDATE 6/8/22] A spokesperson from the Alliance told us via email that the 12 port-a-potties in Prospect Park are serviced twice a week. "There are not currently any plans to increase the number of port-o-sans in Prospect Park, but we rely on visitor feedback to help make those decisions," the spokesperson wrote. "So please do not hesitate to email info@prospectpark.org or get in touch with 311 to make a suggestion for more or differently placed locations."]

Porcelain New York Rating for Nethermead Port-a-Potty: 1.2

Do you know of a public bathroom that Hell Gate should review? Let us know! Send an email to tips@hellgatenyc.com with “PNY” in the subject line.

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