Proprietor of Potsdam rest room gardens to file lawsuit; attorneys allege eradicating bathrooms violates rights | St. Lawrence County

Owner of Potsdam toilet gardens to file lawsuit; attorneys allege removing toilets violates rights | St. Lawrence County

POTSDAM — Attorneys for Frederick “Hank” Robar plan to file charges against the village in federal court Friday, alleging that an order to remove his “toilet gardens” violates his constitutional rights.

According to a statement provided by Mr. Robar’s attorney, Mark F. Snider, the party plans to file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York against the village. This comes 10 days before Mr. Robar was ordered by the village Board of Trustees, in a resolution passed last month, to remove toilets and other bathroom fixtures from his seven properties in the municipality.

“We believe the artists and citizens of our great Nation will someday look to Robar v. Village of Potsdam to be assured that their artistic expression and First Amendment rights cannot be arbitrarily destroyed by an unwarranted local government vendetta,” the statement on behalf of Mr. Robar reads in part.

Mr. Snider, of Massena-based Snider & Smith LLP, declined to further detail specifics about the lawsuit before charges are filed, though his statement did note that Mr. Robar would request reimbursement of legal fees and monetary compensation for the village’s “targeted attack on his fundamental constitutional rights.” The statement says Jon Crain, of Albany-based law firm Whiteman Osterman & Hanna LLP, had been retained as well.

The lawsuit is the latest development in nearly 16 years of disputes between the village and Mr. Robar. In 2004, Mr. Robar requested a zoning change for his property at 82-84 Market St., so he could sell it to an owner who wished to build a Dunkin’ Donuts on the parcel. After his request was denied, Mr. Robar erected the first of what would become several “toilet gardens,” decorated commodes often filled with flowers and other displays. In his statement, he now refers to the toilets as “porcelain planters.”

Despite failing several times over the years to have Mr. Robar remove the gardens, the village once again pursued the matter earlier this year. Last month, the village Board of Trustees passed a resolution ordering Mr. Robar to remove all the toilets and other bathroom fixtures from his properties before Sept. 1.