rb-station-1-051410A NJ Transit rendering shows the station in what officials say were its original colors. (Click to enlarge)

Where’s the restroom?

Lou and Chris Mustillo, owners of the Red Bank’s Walt Street Pub, say they get that question upwards of two dozen times a day from commuters hurrying into their establishment across Monmouth Street from the Red Bank train station, which doesn’t have a public washroom.

So last Friday night, when New Jersey Transit unveiled a station restoration plan that may take four years and consume up to $2 million in taxpayer money, the Mustillos pressed officials with the same question they and their bartenders hear all too often: where’s the bathroom?

rb-station-051410A presentation on the planned renovations attracted about two dozen visitors to the Woman’s Club of Red Bank last Friday night. (Click to enlarge)

Well, there isn’t one in the plans at the moment, they and about two dozen other attendees at a meeting of Preservation Red Bank learned last Friday night, when details of a top-to-bottom fix-up job were unveiled.

Which isn’t to say there won’t be one, said Marty Judd, a NJT offical. It’s just that, in the 140-or-so-year history of the station there’s never been one, and creating one would entail some bureaucracy with another state agency that oversees the historical aspects of publicly owned facilities.

“A bathroom would be considered an encroachment” by the state Historic Preservation Office in the Department of Environmental Protection, Judd said. “They might allow it, but impose requirements” for offsetting changes that enhance the historical authenticity of the station, he said.

The absence of a commitment to a washroom, however, was among the few gripes about the plan, even though officials said the renovations may take up to four years instead of the previously estimated one or two years. The state’s tight finances were blamed.

Otherwise, preservationists were enthusiastic. Some gasped audibly when an NJT officials said the plan calls for the reinstallation of a slate roof.

“Excellent,” said Mary Gilligan, a Preservation Red Bank officer and member of the borough Historic Preservation Commission. “That’s the original roof.”

Audience members also applauded a paint job that officials said would return the building to its original green color.

The plan also calls for the removal of inauthentic plywood gingerbread trim, which will be replaced with detail-cut hardwood trim.

“We are committed to restoring the building to its past glory,” said NJT spokesman Tom Clark. “The bad news is, it’s going to take us a little longer to complete.”

State Senator Jennifer Beck used the occasion to announce plans, endorsed by Mayor Pasquale Menna, to have the station named in honor of the late mayor and state Supreme Court Justice Daniel J. O’Hern.

“He personally worked on the train station, painting it, trying to refurbish it,” Beck said of O’Hern, who died a year ago. “It held a special place in his heart.”

Like others in attendance, Lou Mustillo was impressed by the overall plan. “It’s going to be beautiful,” he said. “But there should be something there” for travelers in need of a washroom.

“I’m surprised the commuters don’t make more of an issue of it,” said Chris Mustillo.