Last Friday, Comptroller John Liu, Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski and a number of other local officials gathered together at the Rachael Carson Playground in Queens for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Located within Kissena Park Corridor on Colden Street between Juniper and Geranium avenues, the park is a popular spot among local residents.
On a sunny afternoon, the park is filled with children running wildly in the playground, seniors reading newspapers on the benches, and teenagers shooting hoops in the basketball court.
The park is rarely empty, yet for the past three decades, the park was missing a very important component: a bathroom.
This soon became a major problem not only for park-goers and pedestrians who want to relieve themselves, it also became a big concern for people who lived in buildings nearby.
Local resident Len Byas, 77, has been advocating for a bathroom in the park for the last thirty years. Because he lives near the park, he would constantly notice people “reliving” themselves by his building.
“There are no businesses around,” he said, “so they would relieve themselves in the bushes in front of my building, in broad daylight.”
Since 1981, Byas and a number of other local residents had been pushing for a bathroom in the park, yet their efforts produced few results.
“I had no voice, no power,” he said. “I didn’t know the right people. I realized I had to build connections.”
Not wanting to give up, Byas teamed up with many local activists, collected signatures, and met with local elected officials to discuss the importance of a bathroom. After decades of advocacy, his efforts finally paid off.
“I feel like this is one of my children,” said Byas. “I fought like hell for this for 30 years.”