Is This New York City’s Nicest Public Bathroom?

A curbside kiosk in Midtown Manhattan has rotating toilet seat covers, classical music and an attendant.

Comments: 62

  1. Technology shouldn't let guys off the hook. We should be reminded of the etiquette of "seat down when done", despite automation doing it for us.

  2. Bill - In my view, in public restrooms in NYC, it should be seat up. Too many uncaring (or germaphobe) men will not raise the seat from the start. Certainly anyone needing to sit will study things carefully

  3. I work in a public building which was built in 1944. The plumbing, installed at that time, has not been changed. Occasionally repaired. There has been a large hole in the ceiling for the last five years, presumably put there to gain access to the plumbing lines in the toilets on the floor above. It is unclear if the repairs were ever made. There are hand-written signs pinned to the trash bin cautioning against disposing of food or drinks because it will 'encourage' rats. Lack of funding has extended to having janitorial services available once a week. Mostly. I do not like this place. Are you sure that the PATH station toilet isn't a small heaven?

  4. Sounds like reinventing the horseshoe. We should be looking for toilets that reduce maintenance and increase efficiency. Spinning toilet seats accomplish neither. The best urban bathrooms I've seen were in German transportation hubs. For the price of about 60 cents, you'd get a quiet stall with a place to set your luggage or purchases down. The attendants cleaned every stall after every use. The entire place was sparkling clean all the time. There wasn't any fancy technology. Very basic utilitarian toilets with the staff and funding to clean them around the clock. That's it. Why New York can't manage something similar is a complete mystery. The subway system in particular is a borderline public safety hazard. 51 one toilets for 5 million daily riders. You do the math. You're essentially paying $2.75 to not use the bathroom for an indeterminate amount of time. Some people use the bathroom anyway despite the absence of a toilet. New York has problems.

  5. The renovation of this Greeley Park restroom took years. I can't understand why.

  6. @Stephen American exceptionalism. USA! USA!

  7. @HarlemHobbit I wish you loved this country as much as I do, warts and all.

  8. Bryant Park. Clean, classical music, attendants to direct trafic, keep it clean and keep the hobos and drug users out, and even fresh cut flowers. If you need to go, that's where you want to be.

  9. @AutumnLeaf Unless you're a hobo (whatever that is) or homeless.

  10. @AutumnLeaf Why keep out hobos? Surely they have the same right to public facilities as the WASP commuter on the 5:45 to New Rochelle.

  11. Here's hoping Newark Airport is high on the agenda for renovation. Its downright foul restrooms are an unfortunate first impression of the Tri-State area for millions each year.

  12. It turns out I have a lot of thoughts about public bathrooms: 1) Very nice to read a positive story about public amenities, when so much seems to go in the opposite direction. 2) I'm always mortified by the state of our airport and train terminal bathrooms, whenever I return from another country (especially Japan). Few countries have such disgusting bathrooms in their major transport hubs -- I'm glad to hear that the PANY/NJ is trying to turn that around. 3) The feedback system PANY uses is unhygienic, requiring you to touch a button on your way out of the bathroom -- when lord knows how many people with poorly-washed hands have done the same. Is there a way to make it foot-activated? Ditto for restroom doors. 4) A 24/7 attendant at the Greeley Sq Park bathroom sounds nice, but what measures are in place for their safety?? Anyway, always nice to read an article with some good news.

  13. I still remember the first time I sat down on a public toilet on Japan and it was heated. What a feeling!

  14. @Tara If you are worried about germs on the button for reporting the toilet's condition, take a snakk piece of fresh toilet paper to place over the button to protect yourself. That is a whole lot cheaper than re-engineering the switch to be activated by one's foot. A small waste basket could be placed near by for the extra square of toilet paper.

  15. This article (which pointed to several others and sent me down a small rabbit hole) has me seething with envy over here in Chicago. Come on, corporate sponsors! We would like to have nice amenities here, too.

  16. @El No reason they aren't available everywhere. All people need a place to go!

  17. i'm taking bets whether this will be around in a year.

  18. In Tokyo and Japan I never found 1 dirty public bathroom..

  19. Amsterdam has a very long history of public "urinoirs." Beautiful iron, curl shaped structures on almost every corner of a canal. A decade ago a clever guy started establishing super washrooms in the city center. The so called 2theloo is super clean, safe and smelling of roses, which can't be said of the antique "urinoirs" or "Krul" in the vernacular.The 'krul' can be single or double, providing an exciting opportunity for gays on their way home.. A tradition that nobody takes exception to. The walk in 'krul' now goes to a museum and the city is about to lose another icon, so hurry if you want the krul experience.

  20. @Sfreud Paris used to have "pissoirs" just for guys, quite smelly, but they were there- totally low-tech I believe. When I was last there a good ten years ago it was a form of porta-potty but at least they were there- and unisex.The pissoirs are certainly a lost cutural icon.

  21. Wasn’t aware of this public bathroom, but will seek it out next time in the area. Bryant Park’s bathroom is indeed the Tiffany’s of public restrooms. If the Greeley Square one is even close to that one, it’s gonna be a hit. Bryant Park has a women’s room and a men’s room.

  22. It's nice to see the toilets in the major transit hubs like Penn Station and the Port Authority bus terminal being refurbished. Unfortunately, things like automatic soap dispensers and hand dryers seem to break down pretty quickly and take forever to get fixed or replaced. All these public bathrooms need attendants stationed in them full-time to clean and refurbish supplies if they are to be kept decent in the long run.

  23. Why don't we have these all over the city Mr. Mayor? The homeless are going all over our sidewalks!!!

  24. @CacaMera i am noticing more and more sprays of caca against the facades of vacant storefronts, which is quite a health hazard. Who is responsible for cleaning these properties ? Particularly nasty, the stretch of Lexington Ave. Around Grand Central, which Stinks of urine and feces.

  25. We're human beings, mostly with a sense of self-worth. This is the way it should be.

  26. If it is nice and publicly available in NYC, rest assured it won't be nice for very long.

  27. @Matt Are you sure you're in NYC? The Bryant Park bathrooms have been publicly available for many years, and they're still quite nice.

  28. Does anybody think $600,000 to renovate one bathroom is too much?

  29. In Europe, they have public restrooms that are easily accessible for 1 Euro. They are kept clean around the clock. Most US cities have nowhere to use a restroom unless you walk into a store or restaurant. You are then obligated to purchase something.

  30. yes, publicly accessible, self cleaning restrooms ( as are in many places in Japan) would be great. But you do not need to feel obligated to buy something if you use a hotel, department store, or Starbucks restroom.

  31. While these brand new, spiffy rest rooms are indeed a nice urban amenity. I think you should also give a tip of the hat to the folks attending to such facilities in a number of NYC parks. I'm a long-distance cyclist, so occasionally in need of "relief". I've been pleasantry surprised to find clean, if somewhat worn, toilets in a number of city parks. This includes those in "posh" nabes such as Riverside Park which had a heated facility near the Boat Basin, and more utilitarian sites like the city park just above Grant's Tomb. And I was equally surprised to find that a small playground rest room in The Bronx near Woodlawn Cemetery was both open and in decent condition. So here's a tip of the hat to the NYC Parkies who rarely get much acknowledgement for their efforts.

  32. TOTO may be a luxury brand in the US, but in Japan it’s just the biggest manufacturer of toilet and bath equipment, very ubiquitous. When will you Americans clean up your act?

  33. @Concrete Man I think as a Nation we’re doing OK.

  34. I give it 20 days before the Penn station bathrooms are disgusting

  35. It was so many years ago that the likelihood of things being the same is slim—but on a trip through the Oregon coast, my traveling companion and I were thrilled to encounter nothing but neat, clean public restrooms in parks and roadside rest stops. At that time, they put California’s rather icky public facilities to shame. How about it, Oregon? Are your public loos still something to be proud of?

  36. @Margaret Jay They are still clean and staffed though for safety I avoid them late at night. Only one crime I have heard of though.

  37. If it's a "bathroom", where's the bath and shower recess? Why do Americans use this euphemism for toilet?

  38. @Bruce Stafford you are right - it’s a terlit.

  39. @Bruce Stafford Why to make us different than Australians: Skip to my loo my darlin'?

  40. This made me think of J. P. Donleavy's novella "The Lady Who Liked Clean Restrooms".

  41. Lack of public toilets are problem everywhere, not just in the US and tourists are the worst affected. They have no home (unless staying at least the night which means a hotel room) and they don't have an office to go to. Day trippers especially are "on the economy" the entire time. So they rely on ad hoc public facilities. Translation: A privately owned shop where shopkeepers either don't have public restrooms at all or only for their customers. So, last time I was in Manhattan, and I needed to use the loo, I'd stick my head in a business and ask they had a public restroom. 95 percent of the time, answer was no. Then I asked as a customer and it was 50/50. If they sold food, then usually yes. Usually a bottle of water is enough to buy admission. I've traveled to probably a dozen countries over the last ten years. And they aren't much/any better. For something that is literally as humanly basic as it can get, something that *every living being* needs to do *many times a day*, it's shocking how difficult it is to find. This is in fact my number one concern when I travel.

  42. New York City’s Nicest Public Bathroom? You mean, there's more than one?

  43. The homeless need a place to go and will surely find this one and others. I see what happens at Barnes and Nobles bathroom's after they have been there, and I walk out.

  44. The homeless have as much right to use the toilets as you do. Maybe a better tact is to work towards a society that houses it's neediest.

  45. I love that Bryant Park restroom and, of course, Bryant Park. We have nothing in Seattle that even comes close to such a beautiful public space. I have to share Seattle’s experience with public restrooms. A number of years ago, Seattle decided to put five automated toilets in the downtown area. First, the cost. The French company JCDecaux was willing to provide, operate and maintain the toilets in exchange for a right to place ads on them. But Seattle was having none of this! A strict advertising law forbade that kind of an arrangement, so Seattle had to pick up the entire $5 million cost ($1 million for each toilet for a five-year period.) Second, Seattle was pathetically incapable of preventing the toilets from being overrun by drug users and prostitutes. As a then-city council member said, “Other cities around the world seem to be able to handle toilets civilly. But we were unable to control the street population...” So, after four years, the city put them up for sale on eBay.

  46. As long as the bathroom is clean and doesn't smell are all the amenities I need with the one exception being the men's urinal troughs that do not flush. What's up with that?

  47. You can make a case for judging the humanity of a civilization through its attitude towards such common human needs. This is a need, after all, that we all face and these aren't the woods, and we don't have a real choice in the matter; we can't just say, "Okay, I'll fast today; nothing in or out". The whole point of a civilization is how well or poorly we deal with large populations of humans; trying to keep them from exploding, in one way or another, so this may well be one small step towards that goal... But I've been around for some time and can tell you that there've been many false steps on this possibly illusive road to harmony and understanding and heart that may eventually lead to a truly civilized culture, city and world.

  48. Visited NYC over the very busy Christmas time. The lines for the women’s were many times longer than the lines for the men’s. Men could just walk up to the toilets while women had, at times, a half hour wait. It was amusing at first, then infuriating at the obvious lack of any thought. Make them unisex or have more women’s than men’s toilets, it’s not rocket science.

  49. @H McKenzie Actually, “potty parity” laws were enacted a number of years ago, and new and renovated facilities take this into account. But retrofitting an entire city takes time. This is particularly bad at Broadway theaters, where women have to leap out of their seats before the first act even ends just to ensure they can use the toilet and make it back for the second act.

  50. @H McKenzie Removing the mirrors will speed things up.

  51. I had to laugh at the MTA spokeswoman saying that all the subway bathrooms are cleaned if that was sufficient:) They are being used continuously, thus they need to be cleaned continuously. I know the MTA can't afford dedicated attendants like a privately subsidized park, but don't make it sound like you're doing everything possible to make those few bathrooms tolerable.

  52. Having grown up in Manhattan and being taught by my mother never ever to go into a public toilet on the subway (when there were many and open), esp warning my brothers re men’s rooms, my first and strongest concern would be safety. Before cost, necessity, or styling, the deal breaker is safety. The focus on the beauty and style is eyebrow raising especially the term “attendant.” A more appropriate term would be guard. Also, there should be two (unless all guards/attendants are to be large men which itself may be an issue) - as one alone at night could become a target. The description is for higher end NYers - which is fine, but most of that population can stop in a Starbucks or are usually well dressed enough to go to a hotel (not kidding, my mom showed me all the hotel bathrooms near Central Park to avoid park bathrooms - The Pierre’s was gorgeous!). So if these are “public” what’s the real point? From seeing NY over decades, the most likely arc of these will be over time the sheen of the styling and their novelty will wear off and they will be abandoned- as NYers need pragmatic, cost effective, and esp safe public bathrooms (and we’ve tried before) - or a reconception of how to address the need for public facilities by those most in need of them. Wow factor may spur interest, but will wear off over time.

  53. @other I respectfully disagree with your concerns. I am 50 year old man who frequently enjoys the Bryant Park “facilities” and have never had an issue or heard about there being one there. We need more public restrooms that make living and working in NYC much better for all of us. They don’t need to be open 24 hours a day but if we can maintain safety and cleanliness in them they will improve our quality of life exponentially. Kudos to Bryant Park Partnership and 34th Street Partnership.

  54. Subway toilets? Hah! I got off a Q train after a long delay and needed the station bathroom, but as with all NYC subway facilities, it was “closed for cleaning”. No cleaning person or equipment was in evidence. A nearby coffee shop was most gracious. Available public facilities are so rare in NYC that I keep a mental map of stores, hotels, libraries, playgrounds, etc. for emergencies.

  55. Where I have travelled in Latin America most public toilets I have found were pay and numerous enough. They had an attendant unless they were turnstile-type. While the equivalent of 25-50 cents may be a lot for locals, it does make toilets available.I don't know what they are like late at night. When I lived in NY I didn't use the subway toilets because I was afraid of who might walk in.

  56. Big deal! There's 2 public bathrooms in ALL of NYC and you're so proud. Have you ever gone to any other major city in this world? They have public bathrooms AND benches to sit on! New York City is God awful.

  57. The mens bathroom at the PA bus terminal second floor is a disaster: only one urinal & two stalls. That's a huge problem when you're trying to catch a bus but have to go first when there's a line to use it. The floor is always wet, the stalls are always occupied. The one at the GW Bridge bus terminal second floor is equally insufficient. The pre-renovation terminal had a john with a dozen urinals, now just one, so if it's occupied when your bus is near departure you better be able to hold it til you get home or wait an hour for the next bus. Thanks PA for all the empty storefronts in this new building & poor facilities for the bus riding public.

  58. There was only one mens room that I knew about that had a comfortable bench inside. It made sense in the lobby level mens room in Geffen hall. There are a lot of elderly & handicapped patrons & I've used it more than once while waiting for a comrade. There are no seating facilities in the hall outside & it was handy. It's gone! There is a baby changing station on the wall above it's former position. They could have added the changing station & left the bench, but instead "out with the old & in with the young!" Doesn't anyone who makes these decisions have any common sense at all? Why not something for the young & something for the old & tired?

  59. Alas, the most luxurious public bathrooms in NYC were in Bendel's. No need to purchase anything. Also had a lovely tea room upstairs but eventually you had to position yourself carefully to avoid looking through the windows at the huge Mickey Mouse sign across 5th Avenue. Says it all.

  60. It's absolutely shameful that there aren't public restrooms like this in every city, in every neighborhood. It's a basic human need.

  61. One summer we stopped at the public beach at Round Valley in NJ with our young children. We were horrified when using the restroom to find the floor covered in feces. It looked like dogs had been left there for days. We made a hasty departure. My point: until some genius comes up with a means to automatically clean and sanitize public bathrooms after each use, they are doomed to be destroyed by their users who think someone else should clean up after them.

  62. How many times have I gotten a coffee or something else that I didn't really want just to use the facilities in "restroom for customer only" establishments. I hoped the Broadway play "Urinetown" would take that head on.