Visitors to the southwestern edge of Pelham Bay Park can finally say goodbye to the Port-O-Sans.
The comfort station at the Wilkinson Avenue entrance to the park is almost ready to reopen after being under renovation for a year and a half. The project, which began in December 2009, was scheduled to be finished by June, 2010.
The station, officially known as the Pelham Bay Nature Center, was supposed to undergo a partial renovation to its bathrooms, which it is most frequently used for, as well as some minor structural upgrades. However, when contractors went in, they found the building’s problems to be much worse than previously thought.
First, the graffiti had soaked into the bricks that originally served as the building’s exterior. If that did not delay the process enough, asbestos was found in the ceiling this past winter.
“It’s been a while,” said Pelham Bay Park Commissioner Marianne Anderson. “We found the asbestos when we were renovating the roof, right before the snows hit in late December, and it didn’t really melt until the middle of March, so we couldn’t really do anything.”
Anderson said park users have been very understanding about the delay despite the long wait for the station to reopen.
“It’s really important for people that use that part of the park,” she said. “They’ve been incredibly patient….But nobody likes Port-O-Sans.”
As of Monday, August 8, the station had yet to open, but Anderson said the bathrooms would be ready for use “any day now.”
The station also has rooms used by park rangers in the southwest part of the park, hence the name Nature Center. Rangers have been operating out of a building at the Playground for All Children, near Buhre Avenue. Their portion of the Nature Center is not expected to be ready for another few weeks.
The bathrooms, Anderson said, were the “primary concern.” In addition to the delay, the renovation project came in about $642,000 over budget. John Marano, chairman of Community Board 10, said the renovation seems to have dragged on interminably.
“It was a non-ending project,” Marano said, but also gave credit to Anderson for handling the situation as best she could. “She is on top of things, she is really good for Pelham Bay Park, and for the parks department.”
And after long last, visitors to the southwestern end of Pelham Bay Park will be a little bit more comfortable.