Yesterday I visited the first public toilet in New York City. It is much lauded. Here is my take:
The toilet it located near the southeast corner of Madison Square Park. It has the oh-so-typical whitish glass and brushed steel look. I am not criticizing the toilet specifically, it is a clean look for a restroom to have, but I’m getting a bit tired of this design scheme in general.
I had to wait a few minutes because the toilet was in use when I arrived. You can see the red occupied light next to the door. This gave me an opportunity to overhear a discussion going on behind me. A man who described himself as the Potty Patrol was chatting to a lady waiting for the gentleman occupying the commode. He told me he was there to make sure everything was going OK.
Then the gentleman exited. The door slides to the left smoothly and slowly and closes to the right in the same way to start the cleaning process. I nearly entered before the cleaning process, but saw that the red occupied light was still lit. Cleaning took about a minute, probably shorter, but when you are waiting for a bathroom, it always seems longer.
I didn’t have a quarter, so I put in two dimes and a nickel. I noticed that one of the dimes didn’t make the right sound upon entering the machine. Nothing happened. I went over and told the Potty Patrolman that everything was not OK. The machine ate my dime. I looked in the coin return and could see that there was a quarter caught in it. I put in another dime and this time the door opened with its satisfying measured motion.
Upon entering everything is wet. Very wet. Thankfully there were hooks on the wall for me to place my backpack: you wouldn’t want to put anything on that soaking floor, even if it supposedly soaking with ‘cleaning fluid.’ There are indicator lights and large buttons on the wall by the door and near the stainless steel toilet of the kind I’ve seen on prison shows to keep you from killing yourself in.
By the door at medium height there are three buttons, one light and a speaker/microphone: Emergency Phone (red), Assistance Phone (yellow), Touch To Open Door (big and green), and When Light is On, 3 Min. to Open Door (orange). There is a fifteen minute time limit before all hell breaks loose and NYPD SWAT breaks down the door. I think you should be able to add time from inside.
By the ground there is a trash flap and another emergency touch to call button, still red but this time big.
The sink is likewise stainless and is labeled Soap Water and Dryer. You place your hands under each of the signs to get not soap but soapy water, water and hot air. The mirror is not glass but more stainless steel.
Though I did not need to use toilet paper, I still wanted to see what the procedure was insofar as it could not be exposed during the cleaning process. There is a button next to the toilet which dispenses soft double ply toilet paper. That is a nice feature, though I suspect if there are toilets placed in less corporate areas, we’ll be seeing single ply. (I did not investigate the toilet seat covers, which, if you look at the video look wet and practically unusable. Also it provides an open box that could potentially be used for creative New Yorkers to fill with things other than seat covers.)
When I left, I started to walk off pleased with the toilet. The P-Patrolman called after me. He insisted on refunding me my lost dime. This was a nice gesture, but considering a service is only as good as its weakest feature, this substandard money box is a significant problem. If I really had to go and only had 25 cents, it would have been a serious issue: the entire toilet would have failed because I couldn’t get through the door.
All in all the toilet is a nice and necessary addition to the landscape. New York can always use another clean bathroom. The BILLION dollars in advertising revenue that these toilets will bring the city will hopefully be put to good use. The current poster sized advertisement is not obnoxious enough to blight the general area (though I am sure they are going to the wrap the whole thing in advertising as soon as they think they can get away with it).
Some more pics:
The Dime I was refunded by the city for their busted facility.