The toilet gardens on the properties of Frederick “Hank” Robar, Sr. are, once again the subject of legal action from the Potsdam Village Board of Trustees. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

POTSDAM — Retaliation is growing in response to Monday’s action by the village Board of Trustees ordering the removal of “toilet gardens” on seven properties as Frederick “Hank” Robar deliberates over how to comply.

“We haven’t hired any junk removal agency yet,” Mark Snider of Snider and Smith, LLP, Mr. Robar’s attorney, told the Times in an interview Thursday.

While Mr. Snider wouldn’t indicate what Mr. Robar’s response will be, assuming he does not comply with the village’s order, he expressed doubt that the village would reach out to find a middle ground to settle the dispute.

“The village board has set the timeline on this and the village board appears to have fairly well set the parameters for any resolution if there be one in that they haven’t wanted to talk,” Mr. Snider said.

The resolution passed by the board of trustees Monday instructs Mr. Robar to remove all publicly displayed toilets from his “gardens” in the village before Sept. 1. This comes after the village code enforcement office served Mr. Robar several notices over the prior months and a public hearing to contest those notices.

“While Clarkson respects freedom of speech and expression, the originator of the self-proclaimed toilet art protest has had ample opportunity to fully share an opinion on his issues of concern to the village of Potsdam through this format of expression and other channels. These displays do not reflect Potsdam’s true character as a tight-knit community that cares about its residents, businesses, cultural organizations, students and visitors. After years of comments from prospective employees, prospective students and their families, and other visitors about abandoned toilets in yards around town, which have negatively influenced their opinion of the community, we fully support the village of Potsdam’s Chapter 125 Junk Storage code on local properties,” Clarkson University Vice President of Marketing and External Relations, Kelly Chezum, told the Times in a statement.

Other community reactions have backed Mr. Robar, including an online petition started by Setcher Krywanczyk, of Brasher Falls, which has received over 780 signatures as of Thursday evening.

“I think it really gets to people because these Potty Gardens aren’t anything new or unheard of,” Mr. Krywanczyk said. “A lot of people grew up seeing them all the time, and with Potsdam being a college town with a focus on art I’m sure the college students are really passionate about it too.”

Village Administrator Greg Thompson did not immediately return a request for comment Thursday. He previously indicated he and other officials wouldn’t be commenting on the matter based on advice from the village attorney.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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(12) comments

Old Sage

Classic Potsdam. Classic.


Mr. Robar, you made your point. Long, long ago. Get over it.


I love NNY. If you think these are great, why don't you buy them from Robar and put them in your yard and see what happens to your property value and how much your neighbors want them .

Pat Luppens

I'm very surprised that more than half the voters want to leave the toilets. I left the South (Virginia) to get away from this sort of thing.


Robar has already been to court over these which I believe he won his case I understand individuals don’t like the gardens but other people do on the other hand it took the village to fix a water leak so they like to spin there wheels one last thing the village board doesn’t want to lose money from Clarkson so that’s why they keep at it with Robar it’s all about the money


One VERY long sentence! (Actually five)


The obvious question is why doesn't Clarkson offer to buy this land from him? I can tell you with 100% certainty that the Toilet Gardens turn students away. I am all about protest art, but this is a spoiled baby boomer throwing a temper tantrum.

Bonus for the fact that the guy leading the fight is from Brasher Falls, there are plenty of abandoned meth labs in Brasher Falls that need cleanup if you want to help a community.


If your going to get rid of these , get rid of all the other unsightly junk inpeoples yards ,like the wishing wells , garden gnomes , wind spinners etc etc . . Make Potsdam into the cookie cutter town , all the same , as some would like to have it . If one goes all should be banned. Either that or Let Hank's gardens stay.!


When I first moved back to Potsdam 7 years ago, I was mildly amused by the toilet gardens. However, when I discovered the reason for the first one, I realized that the response was completely out of proportion with the "offense". Why should Robar have expected approval of a convenience store in a residential area, particularly when there was already one catty-corner across the street, at the main entrance to the village from the south, where there were already traffic problems? Why should someone who bought a house in a residential area suddenly find themselves neighboring a convenience store? The property was zoned when Robar bought it, and asking for it to be rezoned was a non-starter; you don't penalize the neighbors and cause additional village traffic problems (consider the local issues when 5 Guys took over the Stewart site) just because Robar wants to make a fat profit.

But extending the toilets to all his properties, and routinely expanding them is not just giving a middle finger to the village government, it's dissing the town and all its residents, and particularly those who are adjacent to the properties. It's clear that Robar is just being egotistically antisocial and anti-community, and doesn't care about the effects on the other residents and visitors to the town.


Mr Robar, you've proved your point 100 times over. Take the stupid things down. Let's move on.

Honest Abe

This ordinance was sooooooo targeted toward Robar. Not liking art does not make it illegal. It is not a safety hazard, and even if it's ugly, bad art is still art and not illegal. I'm in support of Robar's rights even if I don't like his art. Potsdam is overreaching and I think a higher court is going to make them pay . . . with our tax dollars.

Holmes -- the real one

Is it really possible that nobody on the Potsdam village Board of Trustees has any experience with teenagers. It appears that, by doing absolutely nothing in the midst of their frenzy Robar has managed to place them in a clever double bind.

I would think that someone up there, with the University so close, would be able to provide insight into the psychology surrounding this situation.

They've already completely blown their chance to employ extinction.

The next best strategy at this point would be to set aside public lands for another, better, toilet garden. Another option would be to require toilet gardens -- with at least one toilet/resident in the village.

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