From the Daily News:
The city put in a $500,000 dog run. But no facility for people to run to when nature calls.
Last week, I walked east from Utopia Parkway through gorgeous, 50-acre Little Bay Park - sandwiched along the Cross Island Parkway between the Throgs Neck Bridge and Fort Totten - as the sun spilled out of a baby blue sky. Joggers panted past. Bicyclists zoomed. Walkers nodded in the crisp fall morning. I was putting in a few miles of my own when nature called.
I looked around for a rest room.
I saw a lumpy Little League field where my son sometimes plays ball and remembered there was never a rest room here. I did see six workers putting the finishing touches on a state-of-the-art dog run near the Utopia Parkway exit of the Cross Island that will open next month. The dog run has a water supply, one fenced area for large dogs, another for smaller dogs, and a third for all dogs to mingle, beautifully landscaped, with a place for dogs to relieve themselves.
I walked toward two men talking. One guy looked like he was in charge.
"...Where's the rest room for people?" I asked.
"There isn't one," he said. "There's Porta Potties at the other end of the park."
I always suspected the city was going to the dogs. Now I had verification. Here was a brand-new, half-million-dollar dog run in one of the most scenic parks in the city, but no dignified place for human beings, taxpayers, to relieve themselves while on a morning stroll, jog or pedal.
Turns out that back on July 12, 2005, then-local Councilman Tony Avella announced that he had secured $1.3 million to build rest rooms in Little Bay Park and another $500,000 for a dog run. Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe was on hand, saying, "We have a saying in the Parks Department. If you would forgive me, it is, 'Our business is to help New Yorkers do their business.' "
But in Little Bay Park, we've been holding in our "business" for five years, guys.
I called Avella, now running for state Senate against incumbent Frank Padavan.
"I'm disgusted," Avella says. "I earmarked that money in 2005. Then Rep. Gary Ackerman secured federal money to expand the parking lot. Parks delayed the bathrooms until the parking lot expansion was completed."
But the short delay stretched into years. Avella says he demanded an explanation from the Parks Department.
"They told me that the state Department of Environmental Conservation froze the project because the planned rest rooms area was considered protected wetlands. Parks never told me so I could intervene. Instead, they let the issue lay there awaiting an approval letter from DEC."
The earliest construction on these rest rooms could begin is 2011.
"And that $1.3 million will be insufficient because costs will have dramatically risen in six years," Avella says. "So now they'll need additional funding, which means more delays. It's an outrage."
And that's why so far all we have in Little Bay Park is a $500,000 dog run in a city that is literally going to the dogs.