“Potty Town” Plunges Depths of Upstate Man’s 18 Year Revenge Feud
There are a ton of movies about a person wronged seeking their just revenge: John Wick, True Grit, most Tarantino movies. Now one Upstate feud between a man and the village he lives in is getting the feature length treatment as a documentary.
It started in 2004 when the Potsdam Zoning Board refused to rezone one of Hank Robar Sr.’s residential properties for a Dunkin’ Donuts that wanted to build there. Then they denied another rezoning request for a different property Robar owns, saying it would “never be changed, just like your property on Market.” Understandably aggrieved, Robar’s carefully calculated next move would make him a legend.
Robar went dumpster diving for toilets. He then took the toilets, put them in the front yard of his original snubbed property, filled them with dirt, and planted flowers in them. The Toilet Gardens of Potsdam soon spread to six of Robar’s other properties through town, creating an international stir and focusing the town government’s ire.
Fart, But the F Is Silent
Robar, now in his 80s, maintains the Toilet Gardens – replacing cracked and vandalized porcelain planters and tending the flowers in each. He maintains they’re an art installation, not an act of protest, and he’s fended off the town’s attempt to flush his displays at every step.
After three failed attempts to get rid of the public spectacle, Potsdam tried to enact a “junk storage law” and force Robar into submission, per NNY360. In turn, Robar filed a $7 million federal lawsuit in 2020 saying the village was infringing his First Amendment right to free speech through art. Potsdam was forced to retract their law.
The Full Account
Who knows what the next move in the War of the (Toilet) Roses will be, but in the meantime Upstate director Morgan Elliot has officially released Potty Town: Where Protest Meets Porcelain to chronicle the local legend. Morgan talked with Robar, Potsdam citizens, village code enforcement, and SUNY Potsdam and Clarkson University faculty for the definitive look inside. Potty Town was officially released on August 9 on YouTube, Amazon Prime, and Apple TV.