Olean Mayor Addresses Homophobic Allegations

OLEAN, NY (WNY News Now) – An August Pride in the Park celebration quickly took a sour turn when attendees found themselves locked out of the bathrooms in an event that coalition members are calling a “callous disregard”.  

Organizers of the Pride Coalition explained that they had booked the War Veterans’ Park for Saturday, August 26th and upon discussions regarding costs and services, the question of whether the restrooms would be available was brought up. 

According to the president of Cattaraugus County Pride Coalition, Pab Sungenis, organizers were assured by Olean City officials that as long as the event was scheduled to run from noon to 4 p.m on Saturday, the bathrooms would be open and no extra fee would be necessary. 

During the early hours of the event, organizers quickly realized that the restrooms remained locked and allegedly continuously called various city officials with no response or explanation given until around two hours into the event where, according to a coalition member, a representative from the Department of Public Works contacted the president of the coalition to inform them that according to the contract that was signed, the bathrooms would only be available while “the pool was open”. 

According to Sungenis, the city ended the pool season early and “conveniently” the only event that remained on the city’s calendar past pool season was the Pride in the Park. With no restrooms available, many attendees sought relief across the busy intersection of Front Street and State Street to the local Country Fair convenience store. 

Sungenis continues, stating, “The decisions made by the City, first in unilaterally deciding to lock us out of the bathrooms, second in refusing to tell us about the decision, and then to wait until it was too late to hire port-a-johns or seek another option, was reckless and put dozens of people in danger, not to mention disruptive to a local business not connected with our organization in any way.”. 

In a one-on-one interview with WNY News Now, Mayor William Aiello explained the “mix-up” from the city’s perspective.

“There was a mix-up, unfortunately, there was a mix-up. Our standard procedure is that the rec center and the swimming pool at that time is open, that the restrooms will be available. If it’s not open, then they can pay for us to staff the facility that have the restrooms. The facility was supposed to be open, we closed because of lifeguard shortages, it was closed and we could not open the facility, and that message was not relayed to them,” said Aiello. 

According to Sungenis, if the city had informed the coalition of their decision, they would have been “more than happy to pay the extra money to have the bathrooms open”, but the opportunity was never given and instead the city waited until the event was half over to address the concerns. When Aiello was asked about the legitimacy of the claims, the mayor stated, “I’m not gonna get into we said this or she said that or they said that, my understanding is that the option was given to them and because the facility was going to be open, they did not take that option and then, like I said, there was a miscommunication, we failed to get back to them and say ‘hey, look the building is going to be closed so if you want the restrooms, you’re going to have to pay for them’, we did not do that. That’s the corrective action we’re taking to make sure that this doesn’t happen again, if somebody rents the facility and we have to close it for whatever reason, we would get back to them as soon as we found that out and let them know that the facilities are going to be closed and your options are to rent the restrooms,”. 

Members of the coalition are planning a peaceful protest in the upcoming week to address the city council and call upon the city for change. 


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.