Potsdam, NY, drops fight against toilet gardens

Published: Feb. 3, 2021 at 8:45 AM CST
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POTSDAM, N.Y. (WWNY/Gray News) - The posies in the potties in Potsdam can stay. That’s because the village has backed down in its fight against the so-called toilet gardens on Hank Robar’s property.

“Village trustees, after considering the … order of United States district court … does hereby rescind the resolution dated July 20, 2020 directing Mr. Robar to remove the toilets,” Potsdam Mayor Reinhold Tischler announced Monday.

Toilets filled with artificial flowers are sprinkled across Hank Robar’s property. Village trustees ordered them removed by Sept. 1. If not, they threatened to do it for him. Robar fought back.

“I just said to myself, ‘I’m not going to do it.’ I hired a lawyer and I figured I’d find out if I could leave them or couldn’t leave them. Let the law take its own way,” said Robar.

Robar was elated Tuesday. He had already won a federal court order barring the village from doing anything about the toilets until his First Amendment case was settled.

“It’s like, ‘I told you so,’ kind of a little bit – where we tried to tell them ahead of time: ‘Don’t do this. Don’t do this to Hank Robar. Don’t do this,’” said Jon Crain, Robar’s lawyer.

Robar’s lawyers sought $7 million in damages if the village dared touch his toilets. They welcomed Monday’s village board action.

Some people agree with Robar and think toilets are art. Others think they’re just funny. But successive village boards have seen no humor in this situation.

Robar built his first toilet garden in 2004 as a protest. The village has been issuing him warnings and violations ever since.

“This is not something that he brought upon himself. This is something that the village has done to him,” said Crain.

Tischler declined to comment Tuesday.

Robar’s lawyers say the $7 million in damages wouldn’t kick in unless the village does something rash. But they do plan to seek attorney fees in what remains an ongoing case.

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