What a Relief. City Proposes Lower Manhattan's Only Pay Toilet

Rendering of the Automatic Public Toilet proposed for the south plaza of the Municipal Building, near Centre Street. Rendering: NYC Department of Transportation

Jan. 28, 2018

As anyone who has stood in a Starbucks bathroom line can confirm, public toilet facilities are few and far between in the city. Now, the Department of Transportation is trying to do something about it. The agency intends to install 15 new outdoor pay toilets around town and one is slated to land in Lower Manhattan, in the south plaza of the Municipal Building at 1 Centre Street, near the Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian ramp.

The 25¢-per-use structure, known as an Automatic Public Toilet, or A.P.T., is expected to be an especially welcome sight to the crowds of tourists crossing the bridge, among many others.

“We have tourists, we have patrons for the [food] kiosks and municipal workers, and [it’s near] the subway station, across the street from City Hall Park,” said Rachel Berkson, director of the DOT’s Franchises and Concessions, “so there’s a lot of potential users.” Berskson showed the plan to Community Board 1’s Land Use Committee as part of its approval process.

The handicap accessible 12 foot by 6 foot toilet would be open from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Users get up to 15 minutes for their quarter. When the time is up, the door opens automatically. The toilet, to take the place of an empty tree pit in the plaza, would be similar to the one adjacent to Madison Square Park that Berkson called successful because it is near heavy pedestrian traffic.

A private company would pay for the toilet and maintain it, Berkson said. Despite concerns expressed by some community board members that the building would be an unsightly addition to the plaza or that it might harbor the homeless, CB1 voted its support.