TONAWANDA, NY – Mayor Rick Davis disputes critics who refer to a recently opened public restroom facility, within a newly-created city park, as the “Million Dollar Bathroom.”
“It’s a short sighted view on the overall picture of everything,” Davis told WGRZ-TV. “First of all, the bathroom did not cost $1 million to build.”
Davis says the $1.04 million spent was to create an entirely new, 2.5 acre park in the heart of the city’s downtown, which he says will be of benefit to the entire community as well as visitors.
He put the price of the restroom facilities, which includes lockers and a bike repair station for the many who tour the nearby Erie Canal trail on two wheels, at closer to $225,000.
Neatly landscaped with sidewalks which form a bicycle spoke and wheel pattern, the park surrounds the public restrooms which are housed in a new building resembling an old railroad station.
“For $1 million we didn’t just create bathrooms, we created a communal area in the heart of our downtown," said Davis, who believes the new park on Young Street will host community events, concerts, and the city’s farmers market.
“We really wanted it to be a showpiece downtown. We wanted to let businesses here know we are as committed to the downtown just as much as they are," said Davis, noting that restroom and locker facilities in particular might influence bicyclists along the canal to stop at Tonawanda, and while there perhaps support the local economy.
“They could lock up their belongings if they wanted to go grab a bite to eat or something," he said.
Moreover, Davis is quick to claim that the park – formally known as the "Blue and Greenways Intermodal Hub" is also a worthwhile investment because it is a far sight better than what existed at the site before.
“It was a municipal parking lot which frankly, looked like something in a war torn country," said Davis, an Air Force veteran.
In addition, according to Davis, the parking lot was sinking due to underlying building foundations from long ago. It would have had to have been excavated and repaired to the tune of $1.4 million.
“And that $1.4 million dollars would have been solely on the backs of city taxpayers," he said.
Instead, Davis says that by creating a park near the canal trail, the city was able to apply for and receive grant money from the state, the county, and even the Water Authority
“That helped pay for 80% of the cost of the park,” insisted Davis, while noting the park sits in the shadow of an apartment tower filled with seniors --some of whom have a hard time walking very far.
This provides a beautiful spot for our seniors to enjoy a nice day outside just steps from their homes,” he said.
Yes, they could have thrown down some grass seed and put up some "porta-johns" for a lot less money.
Davis makes no apology, however, that they did not.
“No…never,” he said. “Because for one thing, it beats paying $1.4 million just to re-pave a parking lot and creates a real community asset for generations to come.”