Posh public toilets pop up in Big Apple

The public toilets in Bryant Park, upgraded for $358,000, come with classical music, framed watercolours and fresh flowers.
The public toilets in Bryant Park, upgraded for $358,000, come with classical music, framed watercolours and fresh flowers.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW YORK • The Big Apple is flushed with success, in a new venture that serves a very public need.

Welcome to New York's poshest public toilets, refitted with a US$254,000 (S$358,000) upgrade, where tips are banned and the facilities - classical music, framed watercolours and vases overflowing with fresh flowers - are free.

Gutted and redecorated before reopening late last month, more than one million people a year are expected to frequent the spotless Beaux Arts premises in Bryant Park behind the Public Library in Fifth Avenue.

Porcelain tiles were imported from Europe. Plastic toilet seat covers rotate at the wave of a hand, airconditioning circulates the air and piped orchestral music almost drowns out the sound of the automatic flush.

The polar opposite of the filth of most public toilets, they cost US$271,000 a year to operate and pay attendants to keep it pristine two to a shift - bankrolled by Bryant Park Corp, a privately financed public park.

"Absolutely gorgeous," said Ms Pam Brown, a retired accountant from San Francisco, who is on holiday in the city for five days.

"This should be done all over the world," said her Danish friend Lone Aggersbjerg. "Drink water and have to go to the toilet, it's just that. A need everybody has."

A stone vase of flowers stands at the entrance before a giant mirror as if in a stately home - blooms changed twice a week by a florist.

In the women's toilet, there is a baby changing station, complimentary feminine products "upon request" and a full-length mirror for the smoothing of any ruffled hems.

The rules are simple - no tipping, a mainstay elsewhere in New York; smoking, spitting, teeth-brushing, doing the laundry or jumping the queue.

Original watercolours grace the wall - courtesy of a programme that commissions artists to flesh out their vision of the park.

"People don't want to leave," confided attendant Antoinette Smalls, who will clock seven years on the job this December.

"Some people tell me this bathroom is cleaner than their bathroom at home."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 11, 2017, with the headline 'Posh public toilets pop up in Big Apple'. Print Edition | Subscribe