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July 22nd, 2003, 09:55 AM
July 22, 2003

City Finally Proclaims Deal for Public Toilets


After years of false starts, city officials say they have a deal to finally put paid public toilets on the city's streets.

For more than a decade, city officials have struggled to relieve long-suffering New Yorkers by adding to the streetscape those free-standing lavatories that have become so common in cities from Paris to Chicago. Those efforts always became bogged down in details, like what the toilets should look like and how to pay for them.

Now City Council leaders say they will authorize construction of up to 20 automatic paid toilets when the full Council meets on Wednesday. In doing so, they will be signing off on an ambitious citywide campaign proposed last year by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to spruce up bus shelters, newsstands, street kiosks and even trash cans.

The "street furniture" bill calls for the city to grant a franchise to a single private company to design, install and maintain as many as 4,000 street structures, including toilets, to get a uniform look. The company would sell advertising on the structures and the city would get a share of that revenue, expected to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars over the next few decades.

The measure had been delayed as city officials and Council members hashed out key issues, like who would decide where the new toilets would go and how existing newsstands would be renovated. Last month, both sides agreed to revisit the issue as part of the city's budget. Gifford Miller, the Council speaker, said yesterday that the mayor had agreed to allow the Council to have more say on the new paid toilets, among other things. No estimate was given on what the toilets would cost to use.

The mayor's proposal had called for the city's Department of Transportation to pick the spots. Now, the mayor and Mr. Miller will decide together.

"Once this is fully and finally accomplished," Mr. Miller said, "this is a tremendous opportunity for the city to reap considerable financial reward; have a better integrated, more attractive streetscape; and provide people with services that they really need." Councilwoman Melinda Katz, chairwoman of the Council's Land Use Committee, said it was important for the Council members to help pave the way for the new toilets. "You're adding a new element to the culture of the city of New York, and it's relatively untested."

The need for more public toilets has long been evident in a city where people routinely duck into coffee shops and bookstores just to use the bathrooms. In the Dinkins administration, officials installed experimental pay toilets but eventually abandoned that plan. Under Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, the city first struck upon the idea of awarding a contract to a private company to build and maintain toilets and other street structures. But that fizzled.

Mayor Bloomberg brought the idea back into vogue with his proposal, which is modeled on the Giuliani plan. In a written statement released yesterday, Mr. Bloomberg praised the Council for moving forward on the bill.

Although city officials estimate that advertising revenue could generate millions of dollars, they have declined to give specific figures.

Iris Weinshall, the city's transportation commissioner, testified at a hearing yesterday that similar efforts were expected to bring $307 million to Chicago and $150 million to Los Angeles in the next two decades. She said New York would have more structures than those cities.

But so far, Mr. Bloomberg and the Council have not agreed on how to carry out possibly the most lucrative — and the most divisive — part of this franchise: advertising on more than 300 newsstands across the city, including 280 in Manhattan.

Under the proposal, all newsstands would be rebuilt to conform to a uniform design. Mr. Bloomberg wants newsstand operators to pay for the redesign, which could cost as much as $40,000 per newsstand, without getting any of the advertising revenue. Many Council members and newsstand operators have criticized that arrangement as unfair.

Also, under current city law, no advertising is permitted on newsstands, and the Council must amend that law before newsstands could be included in the franchise proposal.

Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Miller have pledged to work out their differences, and Mr. Miller said he hoped to reach an agreement on the newsstand issue by August. Robert Bookman, a lawyer for the New York City Newsstand Operators Association, called that time frame overly optimistic, saying, "I don't know if it can be done that quickly."

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

July 22nd, 2003, 01:15 PM
About time, but a lot more than 20 will be needed...

July 22nd, 2003, 06:32 PM
The world-famous sanisette:





July 22nd, 2003, 10:56 PM
Looks a bit like an airport bathroom. Let's hope we can keep them clean.

July 23rd, 2003, 12:27 AM
July 23, 2003

Where to Go? New Yorkers Have Some Ideas


It should smell like lavender. Jessica Wurwarg would like that. Make it unassuming but strong, forged with steel and brick, and post a restroom attendant to watch over it at all times. This place will be central to our daily lives.

"It could be a negative if it's not done exactly right," said Gabrielle Langholtz, 26, a promotions manager who spent the sunny part of yesterday at City Hall Park, handing out fliers for an open-air market.

After all, this will be a haven for what is at long last the great common thread, the still unbroken circle. In a city with several daily newspapers, a Noah's Ark of pro sports franchises, millionaires, billionaires and the penniless, there is this immutable unifier.

"You are walking down the street in the city, and you need to use the bathroom, and there is nowhere to go," Ms. Langholtz said.

The City Council plans to vote today on a resolution to authorize the building of as many as 20 public toilets. But such proposals have come and gone for decades, bogged down in disputes over things like design and division of revenues. The money could come from pay toilets, advertising space, or both.

Some have even said the time has passed, what with the arrival of Starbucks and Barnes & Noble and all the free toilets they provide to coffee drinkers, book buyers and those who run in off the street.

Before it slips away one more time, then, let us imagine a place where one and all, regardless of borough of residence, and without needing to be a paying customer of the restaurant or store, might address this common order of business, as do the denizens of Paris and some of the world's other great metropolises. Let Daniel Libeskind and Larry Silverstein fight out the rebuilding of the World Trade Center behind closed doors. We're going to let this restroom thing play out in the news media.

First, the design committee consisting of the readers of this newspaper article shall hear from Sherika Goldwire, 26, a resident of Brooklyn who works for the city. She gets first say because she is more diplomatic and amenable to compromise than the stereotypical New Yorker.

"It would be standard toilets, but made of steel," Ms. Goldwire said. "I think it cleans better. I don't know. If they wanted to do ceramic, that's fine with me. I could deal with ceramic."

On one issue, New Yorkers are less compromising, and while this next point is not quite ironic under the proper definition of irony, it is at least entrancing to existential literalists. Where dirty business is to be done, cleanliness is second to none.

In fact, that is the reason that Antonietta Davi, 42, a legal secretary who lives in Queens, thinks the whole notion is doomed yet again. "It would be a good idea, but people are messy," Ms. Davi said. "They wouldn't stay clean very long."

And that would not sit well with Ms. Wurwarg, 24, of Brooklyn, the one who likes lavender. She was passing out the fliers with Ms. Langholtz yesterday.

"You know how there are bathrooms on the subway?" Ms. Wurwarg said. "Gross."

In case, heaven forbid, the floors get dirty, Ms. Wurwarg would appreciate a hook from which to suspend her pocketbook, and a place for the changing of diapers.

So long as the place is clean, something simple will suffice for Abraham Sandler, 38, who is spending the summer in Manhattan working for Jews for Jesus. Mr. Sandler said, "I don't think we need to make a temple out of the bathroom."

Mr. Sandler, with his sarcasm, was not trying to hurt the feelings of Keith McDermott, 50, an actor who lives in the East Village. Mr. McDermott, who gets around on his bicycle, has quite a few specific ideas about this undertaking, and this committee will be listening closely to him. With the time he has spent on his self-propelled transport, he has become something of an expert.

"I know where all the places to use the bathroom are," Mr. McDermott said. "Any department store, of course; along the river; the gay and lesbian center on 13th Street. I never use any place where they have to buzz you in, like Starbucks."

Mr. McDermott will be named to lead some sort of subcommittee of the Committee to Design Public Restrooms in a Newspaper Article, because he has a lot of substantive ideas. He wants sinks inside the stalls. He wants a permanent structure with men's toilets on one side and women's on the other.

"It has a civilizing effect," he said. "I prefer brick to a plastic thing, blending in to the rest of the neighborhood."

And locks on the inside. That comes from Thomas Nebo, 45, a maître d' who lives in the Bronx. Mr. Nebo has certain concerns about civility, perhaps derived from the nature of his work. "You don't want people busting in on you," he said.

Put down toilet seat covers, too, whoever is taking notes. That idea came from Rachel Rekhter, 20, a New York University student who also was passing out fliers for the open-air market.

"You don't want to touch any of those disgusting surfaces," Ms. Rekhter said. And, she continued, "there always has to be toilet paper."

Anthony Crawford, 40, a temporary agency worker from Brooklyn, thinks it would go a long way toward achieving the hygiene goal to put the toilets down in the subway tunnels instead of out in the open.

"In the street, who knows what people would do to them," Mr. Crawford said. "They might be living in them."

Our committee clearly has a lot of work to do. This is serious stuff, and achieving the right balance will be no small task.

"It could easily be a shameful place," Ms. Langholtz said. "There are social taboos about going to the bathroom."

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

July 28th, 2003, 05:45 AM
July 28, 2003

Tilting at Toilets, the Sequel


A check of the clip file shows that the subject of public toilets has a way of stimulating the literary impulse. References to Henry Miller and George Orwell have decorated musings on the matter. So have song lyrics.

Well, what is more basic — and therefore an appropriate theme for letter and song — than answering nature's call? Not being able to do so easily in New York, that's what. Opposition and attitude, which have thwarted efforts to bring public toilets to New York, are as basic as you can get in this city.

It's been more than 10 years since City Hall first tried to bring to New York what London, Paris, San Francisco, Los Angeles and other cities have. Now it's Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's turn. His administration and the City Council are working on a plan for coordinated "street furniture" — toilets, newsstands, kiosks and bus shelters that would carry ads to pay for installation and maintenance, and would generate revenue for the city treasury.

The plan is for up to 20 toilets, up to 430 new newsstands to replace the current 308, and up to 3,500 bus shelters in place of today's 3,150.

The mayor's heavy hitter, Deputy Mayor Daniel L. Doctoroff, predicts success, citing Mr. Bloomberg's commitment, and the city's need for revenue now compared with 1998, when the last plan fell apart. With just months left to the process, former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani canceled it.

He said he wanted to review the nature of the bidding; others said he didn't want to risk inevitable accusations of political favoritism. Mr. Bloomberg pays his own way, so there were no political supporters to favor. His independence might facilitate matters. So might Mr. Doctoroff's drive to spruce up the city in his campaign for the 2012 Olympics.

But skepticism is hardly out of line. Suzanne Davis, senior vice president of one of the bidders — JCDecaux North America — recalls that a decade ago, it took more than a year just to win approval for the installation of three toilets to be used in a four-month demonstration that cost the city nothing. What makes New York different? "There are so many competing interests," Ms. Davis said. "The word is politics."

And this plan is a natural for the kind of fierce politics at which New York excels. Like the last plan, it links all three elements, because the shelters and newsstand ads would have to subsidize the costly toilets. As a result, there are not one but at least three potential sources of opposition.

Let's start with toilets. No neighborhood wants a toilet on its corner. How are their locations determined? The resolution before the Council gives the mayor and the Council speaker final say over the location of each toilet. "That effectively gives a veto to each of 51 council members," said a lawyer for one likely bidder. "How can that work?"

Bus shelters, very popular with riders, draw the ire of community activists in the city's most congested areas, who argue that their sidewalks are busy enough. During the last round, some community and commercial groups opposed the idea of bus shelter advertising, a former deputy mayor, Fran Reiter, recalls. "They didn't want the advertising and I said, `What do you mean, you don't want advertising?' " she asked recently. "Every storefront in New York is an advertisement."

THE issue for newsstand operators is even more complex. They say it is unfair to ask them to pay for the new stands, they want part of the revenue from the ads, and they object to the city's choosing the locations for the stands.

Their aggressive lawyer, Robert Bookman, is already threatening a lawsuit, and his clients have influential allies — newspaper publishers. They have some concerns, too, said George H. Freeman, The New York Times's assistant general counsel and the lead lawyer on this matter for publishers of The Times, The New York Post, The Daily News and Newsday. They want guarantees that existing stands will not be moved, that the city will keep its commitment to increase the number of stands and will not move any more newsstands from street corners to less congested locations.

The city has signaled a willingness to compromise, but enough to please Mr. Bookman? And if he is assuaged, City Hall still has the problem of overcoming objections to toilets and bus shelters.

The administration is optimistic. "This is an idea whose time has come," said Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall, adding that she hopes her department can award contracts next fall.

Others look at the triple threat and wonder if Cervantes deserves equal billing with Miller and Orwell.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

August 9th, 2003, 09:56 PM
August 10, 2003

What New Yorkers Want From Pay Toilets: Basics


For insight into how New Yorkers will react when the long-awaited public pay toilets finally arrive on the city's streets, observe the continuing experiment in Herald Square.

There, at 35th Street and Avenue of the Americas, squats a high-tech toilet that is so artfully camouflaged by a forest-green kiosk that people often mistake it for a subway entrance or a phone booth. It is one of two coin-operated public toilets in Manhattan, put there in 2001 by a nonprofit group, the 34th Street Partnership.

A young man in a baseball cap soon appears, drops two quarters into the slot, and disappears behind the sliding metal door. In a few minutes, he hurries out.

"Inside, there's kind of a bad smell to it, like the disinfectant is trying to beat the smell out," said the man, Philip Loccisano, 31, of Long Island. "But it's not. The urine is winning."

A woman fumbles in vain for quarters in her purse, then heads across the street to Macy's. A teenager studies the detailed instructions, which are posted in seven languages, and decides not to bother.

A retired salesman, Henry Morris, 85, of Greenwich Village, declares that he is not about to use an outhouse on a city street, no matter how fancy.

Later this month, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the City Council are expected to adopt legislation authorizing up to 20 new pay toilets on the streets. But in this small corner of the city, there is already a pay toilet, and often no one to use it.

The toilet in Herald Square, and its twin three blocks away in Greeley Square, cost the 34th Street Partnership a total of $587,000 to design and install, and $52,000 a year to maintain.

What has emerged from this useful, if pricey, experiment is a growing awareness that, in New York at least, not just any public toilet will do. Not even a sleek Swedish-made unit retrofitted with a self-cleaning floor, rotating toilet rim and heat-activated faucet.

And maybe, just maybe, in the years it has taken to finally reach an age of streetside pay toilets, many New Yorkers have found satisfying alternatives, say in Starbucks, Barnes & Noble and even Bryant Park. Or at least their standards for toilets have risen.

What do they want?

No ugly odors, for one thing. Fewer instructions. Easy-to-find toilet paper (rather than the unit's built-in wall dispenser which conceals the roll).

Maybe even fresh flowers or colorful posters for some ambience.

"I'm all for technology, but let's not forget the basics," said Marcus Wilson, 23, a computer programmer from Brooklyn. "I want to feel comfortable in there. For 50 cents, I expect a certain level of service."

Better reliability, too. Because the units have so many moving parts, they tend to break down more often than traditional bathrooms.

When that happens, one or both of the pay toilets now in place can be out of commission for days, even weeks, while a replacement part is ordered from Sweden.

While city officials have yet to choose which new toilets to bring to New York, they are bound to encounter some of the same issues of toilet etiquette.

And one person's fussiness can escalate exponentially as everyone else weighs in, setting the stage for conflicts over every decision, from what the toilets will look like to where they will be placed.

"There's nothing easy about running a public toilet, ever," said Daniel A. Biederman, president of the 34th Street Partnership, which also runs the restroom in Bryant Park. He should know. He has convened focus groups of women and the homeless to cater to their bathroom tastes.

Mr. Biederman first came across the pay toilets while vacationing in Paris in the early 1990's, and made a point of trying them out on his trips to London and other European cities. He took notes, snapped pictures and later took part in what one resident still calls the great toilet invasion of 1992.

For four months, six pay toilets imported from France were tested in three locations across Manhattan. The cost, nearly $1 million, was borne mainly by a French company that pioneered the toilets, JCDecaux, and several nonprofit groups including the J. M. Kaplan Fund and the 34th Street Partnership. An estimated 40,000 people used the toilets.

Mr. Biederman said the experiment proved that the technology could work in New York; his group installed the two pay toilets in Herald and Greeley Squares in 2001. That cost has been partly offset by $22,311 in revenue from usage fees so far, and thousands more from advertising revenue. Recent ads on the kiosks have featured Gold Toe, Victoria's Secret, The Gap and the movie "Seabiscuit."

By the partnership's count, the two existing pay toilets are now used an average of 450 times a week, or about 25,000 times a year. Compare that with 500,000 uses a year for the Bryant Park restrooms.

Even so, Mr. Biederman is the first to admit that the pay toilets have their drawbacks. "I've never been happy with the fact that even with the translations, it's complicated," he said. "Going into a restroom in Bryant Park is obvious. Here you have to look at the thing, and even if you understand English, it's not 100 percent clear."

But he says that having the pay toilets is better than not having any at all.

Inside each unit, there is a gray plank floor that rotates on a tread like a Sherman tank so that it can be automatically scrubbed after every use by brushes and squeegees underneath. The toilet rim rotates for the same reason.

At the sink, the left spigot comes with a heat sensor to dispense a trickle of liquid soap, followed a second later by a gush of warm water. The right spigot then blows hot air for hand-drying, and a dime-size nozzle in the wall dispenses air freshener. A sprinkler system puts out cigarettes tossed into the trash bin.

There is even a safeguard against toilet hogs: the door is programmed to slide open again after 15 minutes of use, no exceptions. A digital display keeps a running count of the minutes left, and a recording of a woman's voice politely reminds the visitor: "Your time to use the toilet has expired. The door will open in one minute."

Still there? The same disembodied voice insists: "Please leave the toilet immediately. Remember to take your personal belongings with you."

"You can't overstay your welcome," said Susan Byrd, 45, a Connecticut homemaker who tried out the pay toilet on a day trip to Manhattan. "It's pretty direct, but I guess that's what I'd expect from a New York toilet."

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

October 25th, 2003, 12:12 AM
October 25, 2003

Les Misérables



The nearest freestanding pay toilet, or sanisette, to my house is in the Place Monge, cunningly disguised as a kiosk covered with film posters. Having never ventured into a sanisette, much preferring to use the pay toilets that abound in cafes and department stores, I approached it reluctantly. I had the required coins (two 20-cent pieces) ready to put into the slot when I saw that the red occupied sign was showing, so I waited. Finally, the door opened and a homeless man, a clochard, stumbled out, fell to his knees and passed out. This was not at all encouraging.

Still, I inserted my coins. The door slid open and I stepped inside a tiny circular room made entirely of molded plastic. The automatic door closed behind me and I was at once overwhelmed by a heady mix of disinfectant and rancid clochard. The toilet seat appeared clean if wet. The little sink, however, was filled with something nasty that I did not linger to examine. I almost wept with relief when the door actually opened and let me out: a sanisette is my Room 101.

The New York City Council last week cleared the way for the installation of similar toilets in New York, a city where the ability to find a restroom (by say, knowing where they are hidden away in hotel lobbies and department stores or by slipping unobtrusively into restaurants) has long been a survival skill. But if this city's experience is any guide, New Yorkers may want to concentrate less on sanisettes and more on the other ways Parisians find relief.

Paris has experimented with several varieties of pay toilets. Various primitive forms have been available to Parisians since 1568, and in the 1830's the city formally took up the question as part of a huge urban renewal program. By 1843, there were 468 "vespasiennes" — open-air toilet stalls with running water to cleanse them — named after the Emperor Vespasian, who imposed a tax on the public latrines of first-century Rome. At the beginning of the 20th century there were 1,600 such toilets for men and 112 for women in Paris. The city also installed many underground toilets where a cleaner-guardian, a "Dame Pipi," welcomed visitors for a small fee, including a splendidly decorated one in the Luxembourg gardens.

The first sanisettes appeared on Paris streets in 1980 to general public approval — essentially because they were less smelly and unpleasant than the open-air variety (only two vespasiennes remain in existence). To the 420 pay sanisettes already in place, the city of Paris has just decided to add 120 free sanisettes for the homeless. Since JCDecaux, the French company that invented these fully automatic, self-cleaning toilets, receives 6.2 million euros a year from the city, plus an average 150,000 euros monthly from entry fees, one must assume that lots of people are using them.

But who are all these users? Not one of my friends admitted to having ever personally used one, or knew who else might have done so. Claustrophobia and an awful dread of being trapped in the toilet should the automatic door refuse to open were given as reasons for their reluctance. Some mentioned Benoît Duteurtre's frightening story in "Drôle de Temps" about a young man imprisoned in a sanisette and waiting in terror to be ground to a pulp by the automatic cleaning mechanism. There was also the fear that there might be a repeat performance of an incident in 1995 in which a bomb was placed in a sanisette. Another timorous friend said that after reading a Stephen King horror story in which the protagonist entered a sanisette and was sucked into some other dimension, she had no desire to discuss toilets of any kind. Some friends had observed that women in general do not use sanisettes unless they have a trustworthy friend standing guard outside.

Doubtless, the irrational fears of a few overimaginative Parisians are not what worry pragmatic New Yorkers about sanisettes: they simply do not want them taking up sidewalk space near their homes or the undesirable clientele they may attract — as they do in Paris, where the sanisettes seem to be frequently vandalized. However, since decent, reasonably priced public toilets are obviously essential in every city, one wonders why New Yorkers do not refurbish the toilets in their numerous well-patrolled subway stations, with their own American version of the dauntless French Dames Pipi to guard them.

Perhaps the New York City Council could send a delegation to Paris to witness the ferocity of these intrepid toilet-tenders, who brook no nonsense from prostitutes, drug addicts or any other riffraff — and guard and clean their territory with evident pride. This would allay any doubts that the council members might have about maintaining safe public toilets with attendants, and thereby not only answer a real public need, but also calm the fear and trembling of visitors suffering from claustrophobia. As the toilet-tenders are paid from the fees and tips they receive from users, this endeavor would not necessarily be that costly to the city of New York.

New Yorkers may turn out to love their plastic pay toilets. But as for me, my first visit to the sanisette was my last.

Linda Koike is Paris editor for the newsletter Paris Notes.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

TLOZ Link5
October 25th, 2003, 02:21 AM
I thought that the guy in "Drôle de Temps" was almost drowned by the cleaning equipment in the Sanissette. "Almost," because he survived.

October 31st, 2003, 01:57 AM
October 31, 2003

Public Toilets in Paris

To the Editor:

"Les Misérables," by Linda Koike (Op-Ed, Oct. 25), called to mind my experience earlier this month when I wanted to use a sanisette (freestanding pay toilet) near Sacré-Coeur in Paris.

Not having the necessary euro coins, I inserted my Visa card, which had served me well at A.T.M. locations elsewhere in Paris. The sanisette rejected my card. Standing aside, I watched as a man from Brussels stepped up and used his Belgian Visa card. The door opened. When he exited, he saw my dilemma and offered to use his Visa, saying I could then reimburse him.

With relief, I accepted his offer, found the dry interior spotless and, following instructions, exited promptly. I experienced no apprehension of being trapped in the cubicle and sanitized with the spray of hot water and heated air but, instead, was thankful that such facilities were available.

Pasadena, Calif., Oct. 25, 2003

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

July 18th, 2004, 12:31 AM
July 18, 2004


Public Toilets and the City

For a can-do city, New York has an awful lot of trouble getting certain things done. For more than two decades, city officials have been struggling to install public pay toilets in the busiest parts of town. But aside from the rare pilot program, no comfort stations have arrived. Other American cities like San Francisco, Boston and Chicago have managed to provide their citizens and visitors with this basic amenity, while one New York mayor after another has thrown up his hands and retreated.

The Bloomberg administration is doing the right thing by trying to change that sorry record, but at a cost to some of the city's smallest businesses: newsstands. And the newsstand owners' resistance could once again torpedo the public toilets.

The problem stems from the agreement by Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council last year to lump together the installation of some 20 toilets citywide with an overhaul of thousands of city bus shelters and hundreds of privately owned newsstands - all aimed at achieving a tidier look for so-called street furniture. One private contractor would build and install all the structures, giving some uniformity to the streetscape. The exteriors would be used as billboards for paid advertising. That would help pay for building and maintaining the expensive self-cleaning toilets - at locations still undetermined - while generating profits the builder and city would share. New York could reap hundreds of millions of dollars over the course of a 20-year contract, and the contractor's take would be even larger.

Newsstand owners - some of whom have operated at the same spot for generations - would not share in the ad revenue and would not be compensated for their investment in building the stands, which are to be torn down and replaced, turning owners into tenants. The owners also claim that dozens of stands will be eliminated as the city's Department of Transportation takes the opportunity to claim more of the crowded sidewalks for pedestrians. The city says only a few stands will have to be moved, but its estimates have varied. The owners aren't reassured, and they're suing.

The Times and other publications obviously have an interest in seeing that the newsstands, which have dwindled from some 1,500 in the 40's and 50's to about 300 today, do not become relics. Their value involves more than just their wares. The newsstands are an important part of the city's street life, and their presence helps define New York as the unique place it is.

Considering that the city would be drawing revenue from some 3,500 bus shelters, the newsstands seem a very small part of the grand street furniture redesign. Detaching them from the street furniture program should save some stands, and it would ensure that the battle over their future did not further stall the long-delayed arrival of public toilets.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

Newsstands to Give Way to New Kiosks With Ads (http://forums.wirednewyork.com/viewtopic.php?t=1836)

July 22nd, 2004, 02:23 AM
July 22, 2004

A Toilet Stop in Times Sq.? Just Ask to Be Buzzed In


The new bathrooms in the Times Square Subway Station are an oasis in a system that provides scant relief. An attendant controls access.

At the Times Square subway station, they arrive steadily, sometimes sprinting. They are tourists, commuters, police officers, construction workers and the homeless. Many of them want to get into one of the four squeaky-clean bathrooms now open in New York City's busiest subway station. The restrooms, equipped with aluminum-chrome toilets, sparkling mirrors and even an intercom to call an attendant for assistance, have become an oasis to subway riders looking for relief in a city where finding a clean, working public bathroom can be a challenge.

Unfortunately for those who feel the need elsewhere in the subway system, the emergence of these bathrooms, with attendants, is not part of a citywide trend. Only a small percentage of subway stations have restrooms, and their numbers have been decreasing. The Times Square subway bathrooms, which made their debut in March, were conceived as part of the renovation of the Times Square Station, and were paid for by a developer.

Maria Torres, who acts as one of the gatekeepers, sat inside an office next to the bathrooms yesterday, pushing buttons on a switchboard that allowed riders into them, one at a time.

One of those waiting in line was Sarah Floyd, 72, a tourist from Silver Lake, Calif. Fresh from the Statue of Liberty, she had hunted unsuccessfully for a bathroom at a station in Lower Manhattan before hopping on a train to Times Square. There, she stumbled upon the bathrooms, located inside the turnstiles, near the elevators and an exit to 42nd Street and Seventh Avenue.

"They're a godsend," she said. "I was searching and searching."

Ms. Torres let her in shortly afterward. Ms. Torres also enforces the rules that govern use. Some are common-sense rules; others may seem slightly bizarre. Among them: a five-minute time limit - any longer and Ms. Torres calls through the intercom to announce that time has expired. Smoking, sleeping and "lying down in a makeshift encampment" are prohibited, as is gambling, according to the posted signs. They are open all but a few hours a day.

"On my watch, everybody behaves," Ms. Torres said as she inspected the bathrooms for any suspicious packages left behind. "So far, the Taliban have not arrived at the toilets."

While Ms. Torres said she had not had to deal with any troublemakers, the job she does is crucial to keeping the bathrooms operating. In fact, providing an attendant was one of the main sticking points in the negotiations among the collection of business groups and transit officials that met to first discuss the idea.

Boston Properties, the developer of the Times Square Tower, on 42nd Street between Broadway and Seventh Avenue, ultimately agreed to pay for the bathrooms, which are in the base of its building. The Times Square Alliance, which represents businesses in the area, provides the attendants who monitor them.

"Ten years ago, we were trying to stop people" from urinating in the streets, said Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance. "Now, we're giving them a clean, decent place."

Of the city's 468 subway stations, only 77 still have bathrooms, and 19 of those are closed because of station renovations. Many public bathrooms in the subway were closed over the years because of vandalism, or because the police asked that they be shut for security reasons, said Tom Kelly, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Mr. Kelly said the authority, which is facing serious budget gaps in the coming years, would consider having bathrooms at other stations as long as someone else covered the costs and provided an attendant.

"It becomes an issue of expenses," Mr. Kelly said.

But people interviewed in line yesterday said the bathrooms should be a priority. Pamela Ware, 48, fidgeting near a closed door, was one of them. At last, a bathroom emptied - and she rushed in.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

July 25th, 2004, 11:04 AM
These problems wouldn't exist right now if the bureaucrats of the city actually allowed European comapnies to install privatized toilets in the 80s in the first place.

August 1st, 2004, 07:27 AM
August 1, 2004


Public Toilets and Newsstands (2 Letters)

To the Editor:

Before the city embarks on a multimillion-dollar frenzy contracting out the construction and maintenance of public toilets ("Public Toilets and the City," editorial, July 18), how about reopening the numerous closed public restrooms that are located within the transit system?

Revenue from the existing ad space and newsstands within the system could be used to help defray some of the costs. To discourage vagrancy, station agents could control their use via remote magnetic locks within the MetroCard booth as well as be monitored by the transit police.

The public restrooms in Grand Central Station are open and well maintained; surely subway riders deserve no less.

Merrill R. Frank
Jackson Heights, Queens

To the Editor:

We strongly disagree with "Public Toilets and the City." Newsstands are not a small part of the plan to provide much-needed public toilets to New York's sidewalks. In fact, they are expected to produce about $40 million in estimated revenues for the city. These revenues are critical to financing the proposed public toilets, which would operate at a loss.

It is also wrong to imply that the plan will hurt small businesses. The city's plan specifically invests in, and preserves, treasured newsstands. New, beautifully designed stands will be provided (and maintained at no cost to the owner), surely attracting more customers and increasing profits. How could the possibility of a handful of newsstands having to relocate a few feet make us lose sight of the bigger picture?

Moving forward will allow New York City to reap hundreds of millions in advertising revenues, and pave the way to finally join cities across the nation in providing top-notch public services while helping local businesses thrive even more.

Iris Weinshall
Gretchen Dykstra
New York
The writers are the commissioners of, respectively, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Consumer Affairs.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

September 22nd, 2005, 01:56 AM
Deal Is Reached to Put Toilets on City Streets


Cemusa bus shelter in Madrid, Spain, designed by Grimshaw
who will be designing the proposed shelters in New York.

September 22, 2005
By WINNIE HU (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=WINNIE HU&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=WINNIE HU&inline=nyt-per)


After more than a decade of false starts, New York City officials announced yesterday that they had selected a company to remake the city's jumbled streetscape by providing aesthetic order to its thousands of bus shelters and newsstands and, perhaps most intriguing, installing 20 freestanding public toilets on city streets.

The agreement with the company, Cemusa Inc., the North American subsidiary of a Spanish advertising conglomerate, could be one of the most lucrative city contracts ever awarded, as it would generate at least $1 billion for the city over 20 years. Cemusa was chosen over four other companies, including industry leaders like JCDecaux, which tested public toilets in the city in 1992.

Cemusa would install the amenities without charge, and pay a fee, in exchange for the city's permission to sell advertising on the toilets, bus shelters and newsstands.

Although these would be the first American toilets for Cemusa, the company has installed hundreds of them throughout Spain (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/spain/index.html?inline=nyt-geo) and Latin America in the past decade, from Seville to Rio de Janeiro, Cemusa officials said. The company has also built bus shelters in Boston, Miami and San Antonio.

Iris Weinshall, the city's transportation commissioner, said Cemusa had emerged as the winner after an exhaustive selection process by several agencies that weighed factors like a company's track record, financial assets and revenue for the city.

"Cemusa has extensive experience throughout the world," she said. "The toilets are not new to them. They've done them. A toilet is a toilet."

Nicholas Grimshaw, whose architecture firm is behind the Fulton Street subway station, will design the street amenities. But Cemusa and city officials, citing continuing contract negotiations, refused to provide details yesterday about what the toilets, newsstands and bus shelters would look like, or where they would be placed.

Ms. Weinshall said only that she expected a contract to be completed by the end of the year, and that the new toilets could appear on the streets as early as 2007. Users will have to pay a nominal fee, city officials said.

The street project seeks to address an embarrassing shortcoming in a city that prides itself as a world capital with riches aplenty: a lack of public toilets in busy Manhattan business districts. Under three different mayors, efforts to put toilets on city streets have been thwarted by bureaucratic infighting, legal battles and a seeming inability to figure out how a public toilet would function on a New York City street.

Would they, critics once wondered, be vandalized or turned into impromptu shelters for the homeless?

"It's astounding that we can't get it done," said Doug Lasdon, executive director of the Urban Justice Center, who sued the city in 1990 over its failure to provide clean and safe public toilets. The lawsuit was dismissed on technical grounds. "If this was a private corporation, people would lose their jobs. I'm hugely frustrated."

In 1992, during the Dinkins administration, city officials installed experimental pay toilets by JCDecaux in several locations before eventually abandoning that plan.

Under Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, the toilets were again pursued as part of his quality-of-life initiative. But after soliciting bids for an overhaul of the streetscape, Mr. Giuliani abandoned the project in 1998.

Peter F. Vallone, the former City Council speaker, once even photographed and measured public toilets while vacationing in Athens to show city officials back home what could be done. "I opened them, I went in, I used them," he said yesterday. "Then I came back and I said, 'Get off the pot and get it done.' "

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg revived the idea of the public toilet in 2002, even making it one of his top three priorities, behind education and the budget. But the plan for a redesign similar to the one proposed by Mr. Giuliani was quickly bogged down by disputes with the City Council, and later by a lawsuit brought by newsstand operators who opposed the city's replacing their individually owned kiosks. Under the city's plan, the newsstands would be owned by Cemusa. Most of the existing newsstand owners would be allowed to remain, but they would not share in the advertising revenue. The plan calls for 330 newsstands and 3,300 bus shelters, roughly the same as the number that currently exist, city officials said. All the amenities would have to adhere to strict guidelines meant to enhance the streetscape while not impeding pedestrian movement, they said. Robert S. Bookman, a lawyer who represents the newsstand operators, said yesterday that they remained concerned that their mom-and-pop businesses would be harmed by the project.

Several lobbyists who have been following the bidding said on the condition of anonymity yesterday that they believed that one or more of the losing companies might sue over the selection process, which some critics, including civic and government watchdog groups, have assailed as unduly secretive and lacking in public scrutiny. JCDecaux, which submitted a joint proposal with NBC Universal, released a statement yesterday saying that it was "surprised and disappointed" by the city's decision.

Ms. Weinshall shrugged off suggestions that one of the losing bidders might sue and further delay the process. "We're very committed to seeing this through," she said, adding that the city had learned from the mistakes of the previous administrations.

Toulla Constantinou, the head of the North American subsidiary of Cemusa, said the project would create at least 100 new labor and manufacturing jobs in the city. "We are excited, and we know we're going to do a good job," she said.

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html)The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

September 22nd, 2005, 02:14 AM
A little off topic, but I found these while digging through my vacation picture album. This is what public restrooms/newsstands look like in San Francisco.

Pictures taken 8/6/05:

http://images.snapfish.com/344%3A59%3A%3B23232%7Ffp45%3Dot%3E234%3A%3D937%3D3 7%3B%3DXROQDF%3E2323%3A%3C3%3C87%3B6%3Bot1lsi

http://images.snapfish.com/344%3A59%3A%3B23232%7Ffp45%3Dot%3E234%3A%3D937%3D3 7%3B%3DXROQDF%3E2323%3A%3C3%3C93648ot1lsi

September 22nd, 2005, 09:06 AM
^ These look similar to the prototypes that were set up in the plaza in Herald Square a couple of years ago.

When NYC finally gets some public toilets installed it will be a day to celebrate.

September 23rd, 2005, 09:27 AM
For Pay Toilet Company, Progress Is Sometimes Slow

By WINNIE HU (http://query.nytimes.com/search/query?ppds=bylL&v1=WINNIE HU&fdq=19960101&td=sysdate&sort=newest&ac=WINNIE HU&inline=nyt-per) and FERNANDA SANTOS
September 23, 2005


The Spanish advertising company that is paying more than $1 billion to put toilets, bus shelters and newsstands on New York City streets has never before installed a street toilet in this country, though it has built more than a hundred of them in Spain (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/spain/index.html?inline=nyt-geo) and Latin America in the past decade.

Cemusa, chosen by New York
to design its public toilets,
has designed them for a
number of cities, including
Seville, Spain, above.

The company, Cemusa Inc., which was picked this week to provide New York with new so-called street furniture, has already won contracts to place toilets in cities like Seville and Rio de Janeiro. But just as New Yorkers have been waiting decades for promised public toilets, progress to install these amenities in some cities has been anything but easy.

For instance, more than three years into its contract in Rio de Janeiro, Cemusa has finished slightly more than half of the planned 20 toilets, owing in part to municipal delays with sewer and water hookups, officials in Brazil (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/brazil/index.html?inline=nyt-geo) said. Still, residents there have been receptive to the toilets, which are in a variety of architectural styles designed to meld with the neighborhoods. One is a sleek chrome box. Another is built from white bricks and has a tile floor. A third is a silver capsule that resembles a giant soda can.

"It looks like something out of a science fiction movie," said Valmir Áreas de Moraes, a community organizer who works near a Cemusa bathroom in Santa Cruz, a neighborhood in western Rio. A mere 50 cents Brazilian buys a relative eternity - 20 minutes - of solitude from urban life.

In Vitoria, the capital city of the Basque region in northern Spain, Cemusa has been installing 10 toilets and renovating bus shelters and other street amenities since April. Only one toilet was working and open to the public as of last weekend, according to local Spanish news reports. Cemusa officials say three more are ready and awaiting inspection.

The Vitoria government has threatened to fine Cemusa about 15,000 euros, or $18,200 in United States (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/unitedstates/index.html?inline=nyt-geo) currency, for the delays in the installation of the bus shelters, street signs and "other elements of public use and interest," according to a government report released in June. Public toilets are not cited in the report.

In the past three years, Cemusa has begun to expand into the United States by pouring its ample resources into building bus stop shelters in San Antonio, and in the Boston and Miami metropolitan areas. The company is the North American subsidiary of Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas, an industrial conglomerate, which has a reported $8 billion in annual revenues.

In Miami, bus riders praise the Art Deco-style bus shelters that are now on their streets, complete with flamingos, waves and palm trees etched into the glass, and solar-powered lights at night. "It's one of the biggest success stories for our customers," said Roosevelt Bradley, director of Miami-Dade Transit.

Cemusa has also received high marks in Boston and San Antonio for its willingness to accommodate local concerns and last-minute changes, dispatching executives from Spain to San Antonio to check on progress. "This is our first experience with Cemusa, and it has worked out very well," said Priscilla Ingle, a spokeswoman for VIA Metropolitan Transit in San Antonio.

In New York City, Cemusa is in negotiations to build 20 public toilets, 3,300 bus shelters and 330 newsstands at no cost to the city. In return for paying the city at least $1 billion in fees over 20 years, the company would receive permission to sell advertising on the structures.

Cemusa won the highly coveted street project, one of the largest in the city's history, by outbidding four other companies, including industry leaders like JCDecaux and Viacom, both with more experience building street toilets. The contract was highly contested as lawyers and lobbyists promoted their clients. Cemusa spent $96,000 to hire the company of an influential lobbyist and Democratic fund-raiser, Suri Kasirer, to press its case at City Hall.

The details of how Cemusa was chosen, as well as its designs for the toilets, bus shelters and newsstands, remain a mystery. City and Cemusa officials, citing the continuing contract talks, have refused to provide more information. Some lobbyists and city officials who have followed the bid say privately that one of the losing companies may still sue to block the project.

Yesterday, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said he was pleased that the city had resolved its longstanding effort to bring toilets and other amenities to its streets. "It will mean for the city a billion dollars in revenues over 20 years, which we certainly can use, and it will make the streetscape look better and cleaner, and provide better access for people walking back and forth," he said. "And toilets are one of those things that people need, and lots of other cities have them."

Cemusa officials sought yesterday to emphasize their experience building toilets and bus shelters in other countries and provided a list of projects in seven cities in Spain and Brazil. A company fact sheet said that more than 100,000 pieces of "street furniture," ranging from bike racks and temperature displays to toilets, were in use in 110 cities.

Cemusa has also been involved in a joint venture to install bus shelters and mailboxes in the Mexico City area since 1996. Recently the joint venture, known as Eumex, has become enmeshed in contract disputes with the government over who is responsible for paying for the electricity that lights the bus shelters, among other things. Company employees have been arrested as they tried to work on shelters, said Carlos Madrazo, a lawyer for Eumex, which has said it is a victim of harassment.

In Brazil, Cemusa has run into unexpected delays while installing toilets, bus shelters, newsstands, electronic clocks and ad displays throughout the western and northern neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro. Many of the initial locations picked by the city's secretary of public works did not have adequate sewerage and water connections, Lúcio Azevedo Santos, a spokesman for Rio de Janeiro's finance secretary, Francisco Almeida e Silva, said yesterday in a telephone interview. Mr. Santos said the city had a "great working relationship so far" with Cemusa.

The Cemusa brand of toilets in Rio has already won some converts.

Mr. Moraes, who works in a building near the Cemusa bathroom in Santa Cruz, said that when people first noticed the silver capsule bearing colorful advertising on its sides, they had no idea it was a bathroom.

"People thought it was some type of artwork, like a sculpture," said Mr. Moraes, who found the restroom clean. "The bathroom has a cool design. It doesn't look like a bathroom at all."

Renwick McLean, in Barcelona, contributed reporting for this article.

Copyright 2005 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

September 23rd, 2005, 09:39 AM
Some info on CEMUSA and its designs: http://www.cemusa.com/web/en/index.aspx

From their site:

We are international leaders in the field of Out of Home Advertising
A world class company specialized in the design, installation, maintenance and generation of advertising revenues from high quality outdoor and indoor furniture that is adapted to match and enhance the urban landscape

Municipalities, transit agencies, malls and other private and public entities benefit from Cemusa´s experience while contributes to enhance the aesthetic and increase the functionality of the public services while supporting the economic development of the local urban communities


Giugiaro Public Toilet


King & Miranda Public Toilet


Clásico Public Toilet

September 23rd, 2005, 09:57 AM
Iris Weinshall, the city's transportation commissioner, said Cemusa had emerged as the winner after an exhaustive selection process by several agencies that weighed factors like a company's track record, financial assets and revenue for the city.

"Cemusa has extensive experience throughout the world," she said. "The toilets are not new to them. They've done them. A toilet is a toilet."
Couldn't help noting the irony in this statement in light of subsequent stories in this thread.

Track record? Due diligence? A toilet is a toilet?

Maybe there's more here than meets the eye.

September 23rd, 2005, 10:51 AM
The best public toilet I've seen is Courtney Love.

September 23rd, 2005, 11:16 AM
When It's Any Port in a Storm, It's Good to Have More


September 23, 2005

He doesn't want to, but sometimes Bruce Morrow has no choice. There are no public restrooms nearby, and one of his twin sons desperately needs one. So Mr. Morrow, 42, who lives in downtown Manhattan, escorts the 6-year-old to a gap between two parked cars.

Rosetta Chance-Jackson, 31, recalled her discomfort during a subway ride from Midtown to her home in East Harlem, knowing that there are no stops along the way where she could get off and use a public restroom. And last week, Dea Tatishvili, 50, had to make a mad dash to a Midtown department store a few blocks from the corner where she was waiting for a friend.
Nearly all New Yorkers, even those who know where the nearest usable restroom is in most parts of Manhattan, can recall a panicked moment when they needed one but there were none nearby. So many interviewed yesterday were pleased to learn that after a decade of failed attempts, New York City officials had finally selected a company to install 20 freestanding pay toilets on city streets by 2007. There are only two in Manhattan now.

But most said that while the move was a good first step, 20 more public toilets was not nearly enough. "That many could be used just downtown," Mr. Morrow said. "It's a start, but you're still in trouble if you're on the street and your child really, really has to go, and there's no Starbucks around."

When Mr. Morrow and his 15-month-old son, Tenzin Gund-Morrow, have their weekly outing at the small playground in Union Square Park, they are near plenty of available restrooms, including those inside Barnes & Noble, Starbucks and McDonald's.

But parents who take their children to Madison Square Park have to look harder for a restaurant that lets people walk in to use its restroom, said one mother, Adele Rice, 34, who lives in the Gramercy Park neighborhood. "You have to pack up all your stuff and go look for a bathroom," she said. "It's a pain."

Her husband, Louis Debattista, 38, said that when he first arrived in New York City from Malta (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/malta/index.html?inline=nyt-geo) two decades ago, he was shocked to discover that he had to hunt for a public toilet. His native Mediterranean island, he said, has many public restrooms on city streets, with attendants who provide amenities like soap and paper towels.

"Here, I was so stressed looking for somewhere to go," Mr. Debattista said. "When it first happened, I was downtown and I had to go into a cafe and buy lunch to use their bathroom. I had already eaten lunch."

But even though he and his wife agreed that installing more public toilets on city streets was a good idea, Mr. Debattista said he doubted that many New Yorkers would use them for fear they would be dirty or used by the homeless "to shower or do other things."

Concerns about cleanliness have kept Ms. Tatishvili from using the public toilet at 35th Street and Avenue of the Americas when she takes a break from shopping in Herald Square, where she was smoking a cigarette yesterday. The kiosk is one of two coin-operated public toilets on Manhattan streets, operated by a nonprofit organization, the 34th Street Partnership.

Several people who dropped two quarters into the kiosk's slot yesterday morning had few complaints. One of them, Penina Weber, 16, of Suffern, N.Y., said the public toilet was "convenient and clean."

"But it was kind of embarrassing to stand there while the door slides across," she added. "Everyone can see you."


September 23rd, 2005, 11:19 AM
Maybe there's more here than meets the eye.
You're right on target. These are really just excuses for advertising -- that is the first and foremost priority -- as the very first line on the Cemusa website so cleverly points out (note they don't write "out-house advertising":

"We are international leaders in the field of Out of Home Advertising"

September 23rd, 2005, 09:56 PM
^ I meant Cemusa has a proven track record of incompetence, failure and conflict. Why not contract with the company in Paris that has successfully carpeted that city with these little gems?

March 23rd, 2006, 12:19 PM
March 22, 2006

City Previews Models of Proposed Street Furniture Designs

Bus Shelter, Newsstand and Public Toilet are Displayed

The New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) today previewed models of the proposed automatic toilets, newsstands and bus shelters that will be installed citywide under the coordinated street-furniture franchise in New York City. The models shown are not the final furniture designs; they were installed so that New York City officials, and other parties involved in the process, can review the proposed design and materials in scale and perspective and suggest design changes as needed. The City of New York is currently in negotiations with Cemusa, the street furniture company, for a franchise agreement to install, maintain and operate street furniture for 20 years. During the life of the contract Cemusa will pay the City over one billion dollars in exchange for the right to sell advertising space on the structures.

“We’re nearing the finish line and we hope to have an agreement with Cemusa in the coming weeks,” said DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall. “We feel confident that New Yorkers will be excited about the final designs.”

“Cemusa is committed to bringing New Yorkers the world-class street furniture they deserve,” said Cemusa, Inc, CEO Toulla Constantinou. “I look forward to continuing that tradition in New York, and thank the Mayor and the DOT for giving us this opportunity to work together toward the betterment of New York,” she said.

Cemusa currently delivers a range of services to Miami, San Antonio and Boston as well as 110 cities throughout Europe and North and South America. At no charge to the City, Cemusa will provide approximately 3,300 new bus stop shelters, 330 new newsstands and up to 20 automatic public toilets. Cemusa expects to create over 100 new jobs in New York City and has committed to using local vendors for the fabrication and installation of the project. The franchise structures are designed by the world renowned firm Grimshaw Architects, the same firm that is designing the Fulton Street Transit Center in Lower Manhattan. The new street furniture’s distinctive design will enhance and enliven the streetscape while standing up to the rigors of sidewalk life in New York City.

The photographs below are models and not the final designs.





March 23rd, 2006, 12:20 PM
March 23, 2006
A 25¢ Pedestrian Rest Stop, but Wait, It's a Model

The city showed off a model of the street toilets that it hopes to put on sidewalks in about 20 locations by next year. Each toilet includes sinks and mirrors and the door slides open automatically after 15 minutes.

The door to the stainless-steel box slides open, and one of New York City's more closely guarded secrets is revealed — a self-cleaning pay toilet that will soon be coming to city streets.

After months of secrecy, city officials yesterday unveiled a prototype for the new street toilet. The prototype, which is just a model and, therefore does not flush, has been installed on a sidewalk at the Brooklyn Army Terminal, along with a matching newsstand and two bus shelters.

The shiny, silver toilet is enclosed within a sleek, modern rectangle that is nearly as spacious as some studio apartments and topped with frosted pale green glass. It comes with a sink, mirror and disposable seat covers. Push a blue button for an extra flush, and a red button to report an emergency.

A quarter will secure entree to the inner sanctum for 15 minutes (with a 3-minute warning). Linger past that, and the door slides open again for the next occupant even if the current one is not quite done.

"I saw it and I really wanted to use it," said Fredric Bell, executive director of the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects, who described the toilet as both elegant and functional. "Whether you're sitting on a toilet or buying a newspaper, design matters."

Beginning next year, as many as 20 toilets will be placed in locations yet to be decided by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. The first will be near parks, which have water and sewer lines, city officials said, and will close at night to keep vagrants from taking up residence.

The toilets are being installed as part of an agreement with Cemusa Inc., the North American subsidiary of the Spanish industrial conglomerate FCC Group. Cemusa Inc. will also build 330 newsstands and 3,500 bus shelters.

It will build and maintain all the amenities without charge, and pay a fee to the city, in exchange for the rights to sell advertising on them. Last fall, the company outbid four others for the contract, which could be one of the most lucrative ever awarded, as it would generate at least $1 billion for the city over 20 years.

Toulla Constantinou, the chief executive of Cemusa Inc., said she would not say how much the toilets would cost to build until the contract is completed. She added that the toilets, newsstands and bus shelters would be built with durable materials to resist weather and graffiti. The design, by Nicholas Grimshaw and Associates, is intended to present a unified look without obstructing the view of nearby buildings.

Iris Weinshall, the transportation commissioner, said the design still required the approval of the city's Art Commission. "As many people know, the city attempted to do this before and we're very confident that we're going to get this done this time," she said.

Asked whether New Yorkers would mind paying to use a toilet, Ms. Weinshall responded: "Depends how much you need to go to the bathroom."

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

May 12th, 2006, 04:59 AM
May 12, 2006
$1.4 Billion Deal for Bus-Stop Toilets Nears Approval

Bus-stop shelters, some like the model above, are to be built by Cemusa, a Spanish company, if its bid is approved by the city on Monday.

A nearly $1.4 billion deal with a Spanish company to install 3,500 bus-stop shelters, 330 newsstands and 20 public toilets on city streets moved forward yesterday, despite objections from a competitor that was also seeking what is one of the biggest contracts in the city's history.

Although the Bloomberg administration announced the contract in September, the city's Franchise and Concession Review Committee must give final approval because the equipment, called street furniture, involves long-term use of sidewalks and other public space. Yesterday, the committee scheduled a vote for Monday and was expected to approve the deal.

The winning bidder, Cemusa, the outdoor advertising arm of the Spanish company Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas, won over two competitors: Van Wagner, which has managed the city's bus-stop shelters since the mid-1980's, and a joint venture of NBC Universal and JCDecaux, a major outdoor-advertising company based in France.

In exchange for building the structures on city streets, Cemusa will collect advertising revenue from them for 20 years.

The only drama at yesterday's hearing came in the form of a protest by JCDecaux, which has argued that the contract was not awarded fairly and that the committee used an improper method in determining the value of "in-kind" advertising — free advertising the city will receive to promote itself. The city has denied any impropriety.

JCDecaux's chairman and co-chief executive, Jean-François Decaux, flew from London to attend the hearing, and the company hired a former City Council member, Edward C. Wallace of the law firm Greenberg Traurig, to present its argument. Mr. Wallace told the committee that the joint venture "truly provided the city with a better financial and technical offer" than Cemusa.

"It wouldn't hurt for the city to re-evaluate the bids," Mr. Decaux said after the hearing. "If they don't want to do that, then they will have left some money on the table."

The winning company needs at least five of the committee's six votes to win approval.

In a complex arrangement, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg controls four votes and City Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr. controls a fifth. The remaining vote is shared by the five borough presidents. One borough president, Scott M. Stringer of Manhattan, raised questions about how the selection committee considered in-kind advertising but stopped short of saying he opposed the award.

The vote on Monday will complete a lengthy process. The City Council approved the competition in 2002; the city solicited proposals in 2004 and took final offers last year.

Under the deal, Cemusa is to provide the city with a minimum of $999 million in cash over 20 years along with $398 million worth of free advertising. The deal also provides a share of revenue for the city if ad sales are unusually strong.

Iris Weinshall, commissioner of the Department of Transportation, said the city would also benefit from $100 million of capital investments, $200 million worth of maintenance of the street furniture and control of 22.5 percent of the advertising space, with Cemusa controlling the rest.

"Not only will these structures provide necessary public services to all New Yorkers throughout the five boroughs, the distinctive street furniture will have a remarkable effect on the city's streetscape," Ms. Weinshall said.

Toulla Constantinou, chief executive of Cemusa North America, told the committee that the newsstands, toilets and bus-stop shelters would "meet a high standard of iconic uniformity and combine form and function gracefully."

Several business groups, including the Association for a Better New York and the Partnership for New York City, testified in support of the Cemusa contract, as did NYC & Company, the city's convention and tourism bureau.

Bomi Kim, of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, commended Cemusa for reaching out to local businesses, which will manufacture much of the equipment.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

May 12th, 2006, 09:59 AM
4 years to this point ... and no indication when any of this might actually be available for use.

ridunkulous ...

May 26th, 2006, 04:13 PM
anything new about this?

May 26th, 2006, 05:41 PM
Grimshaw Designing New York Street Furniture
May 24, 2006

The New York City Department of Transportation recently signed a contract ordering thousands of bus shelters, newsstands, and public toilets designed by Grimshaw Industrial Design, a division of London-based Nicholas Grimshaw and Partners, produced for the Spanish company, Cemusa. The deal has been approved by the city, and is expected to get final approval from New York’s comptroller in a matter of weeks. The deal is worth about $1 billion. The line includes 3,300 bus shelters, 330 newsstands, and 20 automatic toilets, all made of stainless steel, anodized aluminum, and tempered glass.

“Working in New York, you are able to achieve a greater economy of scale with a large production run,” says Duncan Jackson, head of industrial design for Grimshaw. “We’re able to work with better materials and have stronger quality controls.”

The new structures balance robustness with lightness, such as in the bus shelter, which has a cantilevered design with just two feet on the ground, thanks to a large plate anchored underneath the pavement. The firm eliminated painted finishes and plastics, which are less durable over the long term. According to Jackson, the goal is to have a “neutral impact regardless of the site,” a welcome relief for New York’s cluttered streetscapes.

Alan G. Brake


May 26th, 2006, 11:03 PM
"Final approval in a matter of weeks" ...

But still NO indication as to when they will be installed and usable. :mad:

May 27th, 2006, 01:36 PM
Grimshaw Designing New York Street Furniture
...the goal is to have a “neutral impact regardless of the site,” a welcome relief for New York’s cluttered streetscapes.
Grimshaw's not noted for neutral impact.

May 27th, 2006, 01:45 PM
Then again, how much of an impact can you make with a bus stop?

May 28th, 2006, 09:37 AM
Then again, how much of an impact can you make with a bus stop?
Too much?

May 28th, 2006, 09:46 AM
Then again, how much of an impact can you make with a bus stop?
It all depends on the signage that is included on the final product (since this is a business deal that is all about generating advertising dollars payable to the City).

August 24th, 2006, 12:00 AM
Lawsuits Seek to Void $1 Billion New York City Deal
for Bus Shelters, Newsstands and Toilets

NY TIMES (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/24/nyregion/24furniture.html?ref=nyregion)
August 24, 2006

Three successive New York mayors struggled over the last quarter-century to transform the city’s ramshackle bus shelters, newsstands and public toilets, and failed as the efforts succumbed to politics, scandal or inattention.

Small wonder that the fourth mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg, gleefully announced last fall that a little-known Spanish company, Cemusa, had agreed to pay the city more than $1 billion over 20 years for the rights to build and install 3,300 bus shelters, 330 newsstands and 20 public toilets.

City officials said the structures — commonly called street furniture — would be comfortable and distinctive additions to the city’s sidewalks, and Cemusa would sell advertising panels on them.

But two losing bidders — NBC Decaux and Clear Channel Communications — have filed lawsuits over the bidding process, saying it was marred by “unfair” favoritism and coaching by city officials that put a highly valuable franchise in the hands of "an inexperienced undercapitalized foreign company." Oral arguments in the cases are scheduled for today in State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

Citing e-mail messages from city officials, Decaux contends that it submitted the highest cash offer to the city, until Cemusa — at the city’s urging — raised its offer after the bidding deadline.

The chief executive of Cemusa North America, Toulla Constantinou, calls the allegations a “frivolous” tactic adopted by “sore losers.”

The city denies all the allegations and has expressed confidence that the lawsuits would be dismissed. But if successful, the lawsuits could result in another delay — and another round of bidding — in the quest for the kind of modern shelters, newsstands and toilets seen in other major world cities. It would also be another setback for Mayor Bloomberg’s much-ballyhooed plans to take advantage of marketing opportunities.

Cemusa, a relatively small subsidiary of the giant Spanish company Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas, has already given the city $50 million, the first installment on a $118 million down payment, and has begun to repair existing bus shelters. Once everything is approved, it plans to install 650 bus shelters, 110 newsstands and 10 public toilets in the first year.

There is little question that the stakes are high, for both the city and the companies involved. The companies are chasing one of the most lucrative contracts for street furniture in the world, one that could generate more than $2 billion in advertising revenue. For the city, the franchise provides the city with comfortable and attractive furniture, as well a large and steady income that does not involve raising taxes.

“A lot’s at stake here,” said Scott Stringer, the Manhattan borough president, who has closely followed the matter. “We need 21st-century street furniture and the revenue. It’s ridiculous that it’s taken 30 years.” Mr. Stringer, who initially raised questions about the bidding process, said that he had concluded that Cemusa won fairly.

J C Decaux, based in France and arguably the largest street furniture company in the world, had teamed up with NBC Universal for the bidding and came in second to Cemusa, prompting Decaux’s stock price to fall.

In court papers, Decaux offers no explanation for why it thinks the city would steer the contract to Cemusa. But Clear Channel, which was eliminated in an earlier round, did offer a highly charged explanation in a separate suit: Deputy Mayor Daniel L. Doctoroff’s “Olympic fixation.”

The company claims that Mr. Doctoroff, who was spearheading the city’s failed bid for the 2012 Olympic games last year, wrongfully “hijacked the evaluation process” and steered the contract to Cemusa in order to obtain free advertising in 10 South American countries to “advance his Olympic quest.”

Mr. Doctoroff dismissed the allegations as baseless, saying he had not been involved in the selection process, although he did push for the legislation to establish the franchise and did help devise the bidding rules.

“I didn’t know who won until the committee made its selection,” Mr. Doctoroff said. “The allegation I had any particular favorite is offensive and completely contrary to the history of the transaction.”

The legal battle pits Randy M. Mastro, a former deputy mayor under Rudolph W. Giuliani who represents Clear Channel, against another Giuliani-era deputy mayor, Anthony P. Coles, who represents Cemusa. Mr. Mastro has become one of the biggest legal thorns in the side of the Bloomberg administration, challenging and winning several contract disputes.

The bidding for the franchise started in March 2005, when the city’s Department of Transportation solicited offers. Five companies competed and a committee of city officials assessed their responses in a couple of important areas, including each company’s ability to perform the work, the design and maintenance program for the furniture, and the monetary value of the offer.

A month later, the committee eliminated the two contenders with the lowest scores, Clear Channel and Viacom. Cemusa made the highest cash offer, $831.5 million, followed by Decaux, at $680.6 million, and Van Wagner. But according to city records, Cemusa came in fourth on design and maintenance, the single most important category, and in corporate viability.

Decaux topped the list in both areas. The company, which has contracts in 36 countries and 1,500 cities, including San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago, has spent more than 16 years chasing the franchise in New York.

Both Decaux and Clear Channel have seized on an e-mail message that a city official sent to Cemusa a week after the April deadline, asking if it would assign a dollar value to its offer to provide the city with free advertising in Latin American markets. Ms. Constantinou responded within hours, saying that was worth $396 million, effectively pushing the total offer to $1.04 billion.

The losing bidders contend that the e-mail message was an example of unfair and improper coaching, since they did not receive similar prodding.

Bidding rules, the city contends, allowed companies to offer advertising or in-kind services worth up to one-fifth of the total bid.

In documents submitted before the deadline, Decaux said it was difficult to value the free advertising in its offer because about 30 percent of most companies’ advertising panels are vacant at any one time and deeply discounted.

Decaux contends that the city’s decision to value Cemusa’s advertising offer was irrational and unfair under the city’s bidding rules, and therefore, the court should void the franchise award.

In court papers, the city defended its action, saying it sent the e-mail message after discovering that it had asked the same question of the other bidders before the deadline, but not of Cemusa. Further, the city said it was free to ask clarifying questions of any bidder to get the highest offer.

Clear Channel contends that it was improperly eliminated from the bidding after the city underestimated the value of its offer, a claim that the city rejects, saying it was worth no more than $588.8 million. The city also rejected a subsequent higher offer from Clear Channel.

Decaux and Clear Channel contend that the city intervened again on Cemusa’s behalf after the three remaining bidders submitted final offers. Cemusa offered $924 million in guaranteed cash and nearly $400 million in free advertising, compared with a “guaranteed” $1 billion from Decaux.

But the city once again sent an e-mail message to Cemusa — and only Cemusa. It asked the company to consider converting $91 million in contingent compensation to guaranteed cash if the city allowed it to use 200 scrollers — devices that allow for highly lucrative multiple ads on a panel, rather than just one.

Cemusa quickly agreed, guaranteeing 95 percent of the $91 million, which pushed the value of its final cash offer to $1 billion, the same as Decaux’s, as well as the $400 million in advertising. But based on Cemusa’s written response to the e-mail message, Decaux contends that the Spanish company never removed one of its prime conditions: that it would have the right to select the “most advantageous advertising locations” for the scrollers.

The city counted the money, Decaux adds, even though zoning regulations and local community boards would bar the scrollers from potentially choice locations.

Decaux says that it had hoped to get approval for even more scrollers than Cemusa, but did not get the same assurances from the city that Cemusa did.

Decaux says it nevertheless expressly eliminated all contingencies and guaranteed its $1 billion offer anyway. It says it would have offered hundreds of millions of dollars more if it knew for certain that it could get the valuable scrollers in prime locations.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

August 24th, 2006, 08:25 AM
Scroll back in this thread and you'll see this process has been fishy all along.

Gregory Tenenbaum
August 24th, 2006, 08:58 AM
We need them.

But I see a few problems with the automated self-clearning toilet machines.

1. Whats to stop a bum (or a British tourist who can't find a hotel) from going inside and staying there for the night;

2. Sometimes these machines malfunction - that's when you're inside them - thats one scorching hot shower with lots of bacteria to boot! OUCH. :eek:

What we need are toilets in every subway station with a attendant who gets paid 50 cents per customer and is responsible for cleaning them and taking care of them. A similar operation exists in some European cities.

I would pay 50 cents for a clean toilet - wouldn't you?

August 29th, 2006, 10:41 PM
Whats to stop a bum (or a British tourist who can't find a hotel) from going inside and staying there for the night
The doors open automatically after a certain time --around 15 minutes.

I like your proposal for attended toilets. They used to have them in Grand Central.

August 29th, 2006, 11:30 PM
I would pay 50 cents for a clean toilet - wouldn't you?

It'll cost you at least that much to use these new-fangled techno-crappers :cool:

December 20th, 2006, 09:48 AM

nypost.com (http://www.nypost.com/seven/12202006/news/regionalnews/bus_shelter_rider_boon_beginning_regionalnews_davi d_seifman.htm)

December 20, 2006 -- The first 24 of 3,300 new sleek, glass-paneled city bus shelters opened yesterday.

They are the first installations in a $1.4 billion franchise for "street furniture," which includes 330 newsstands and 20 public toilets.

Plans are to build 650 new shelters a year, most equipped with benches and some powered by solar panels.

Features such as a digital clock displaying the arrival time of the next bus are on the drawing board.

Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall said the first street toilet would be open in June, after she discusses possible locations with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

To limit community resistance, the first two will probably be in or near parks in Manhattan and The Bronx.

Copyright 2006 NYP Holdings, Inc.

December 20th, 2006, 06:16 PM
'Street Furniture' Update: Queens Gets Spiffy

curbed.com (http://www.curbed.com/archives/2006/12/20/street_furniture_update_queens_gets_spiffy.php#mor e)
December 20, 2006, by BL


Anytime something moves from vision to reality in half a year's time, it deserves some respect. And so it is for New York City's new "street furniture," which has moved from prototype (http://www.curbed.com/archives/2006/03/23/snazzy_new_street_furniture_steps_out.php) to reality, as seen above at an unveiling today (http://www.nyc.gov/portal/site/nycgov/menuitem.c0935b9a57bb4ef3daf2f1c701c789a0/index.jsp?pageID=mayor_press_release&catID=1194&doc_name=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nyc.gov%2Fhtml%2Fom%2Fht ml%2F2006b%2Fpr442-06.html&cc=unused1978&rc=1194&ndi=1) in Queens. It's the first of 3,300 new bus shelters to come; toilets sold separately.


· Bloomberg Unveils First New Bus Shelter (http://www.nyc.gov/portal/site/nycgov/menuitem.c0935b9a57bb4ef3daf2f1c701c789a0/index.jsp?pageID=mayor_press_release&catID=1194&doc_name=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nyc.gov%2Fhtml%2Fom%2Fht ml%2F2006b%2Fpr442-06.html&cc=unused1978&rc=1194&ndi=1) [nyc.gov]
· Snazzy New Street Furniture Steps Out (http://www.curbed.com/archives/2006/03/23/snazzy_new_street_furniture_steps_out.php) [Curbed]

September 29th, 2007, 03:03 PM
I cannot find any information online about the progress of installing public toilets on the streets. Anyone has any updates?

September 29th, 2007, 04:31 PM
Based on the NYC DOT "TIMELINE" there should be 10 of the new Toilets installed by the end of 2007 ...

NYC DOT: CSFF Coordinated Street Furniture (http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/sidewalks/streetfurniture.shtml)

New York City's Coordinated Street Furniture Franchise (CSFF) is here!

After an extensive review process, the Department of Transportation has awarded a twenty-year street furniture franchise to Cemusa, Inc. for the design, manufacture, installation and maintenance of bus shelters, newsstands, and automatic public toilets throughout the City.

Over the duration of the contract, we expect to replace all NYC bus shelters and newsstands, and we will install 20 public toilets ...

Automatic Public Toilets

Automatic Public Toilet: Design by GRIMSHAW


The Department is happy to bring automatic public toilets (APTs) to New York City. These state-of-the-art facilities offer comfort, hygiene, accessibility, and security to the public, within a modern design. Designed to self-sanitize after each use, the APTs will also be serviced twice a day for inspection and system maintenance, affording the people of New York a safe and valuable convenience.

Site Specifications

The footprint of the APTs will span 6'7" x 12'.

Siting Criteria include:

1. Clear Path: Automatic Public Toilets must allow a minimum clear path of 8 feet in width.

2. Clearance from Curb: All APTs must allow a straight unobstructed path of at least 1.5 feet between the APT and the curb.

3. Other Minimum Distances:

10 feet: fire hydrants, standpipes
5 feet: tree trunks, canopies
3 feet: streetlights, traffic signal poles
2 feet: ventilation, street signs, cellar doors

4. Permissible Locations:

a. On wide streets, only in commercial, manufacturing or mixed use districts
b. On sidewalks or plazas adjacent to property owned or leased by a government agency or public authority, or under the jurisdiction of the EDC.
c. On traffic islands or public places bounded on all sides by mapped streets under the jurisdiction of the Department.
d. On or adjacent to parks property of playgrounds, subject to the approval of the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Chronology of Key Dates

NYCDOT created this exciting Coordinated Street Furniture Franchise through extensive collaboration with and support from community organizations, City agencies and elected officials throughout the boroughs.

We appreciate and recognize the participation of individuals and groups who helped make this franchise possible.


September 23, 2005: Winner Announced

December 2006: First CSFF Structures Installed

Automatic Public Toilets -- Build Year 1: 10

September 29th, 2007, 04:34 PM
And "WHERE" ...

APT (Automatic Public Toilet) Locations

The Department will begin to reach out to local bodies to solicit recommendations for potential locations of automatic public toilets.
Because these structures must meet extensive technical siting criteria, the selection process will include extensive location surveys.

Above please find information on some of the siting specifications to consider when making recommendations.

If you are interested in recommending a location, please submit your recommendation in writing to CSFF via Email at treetfurniture@dot.nyc.gov
Or contact your local community board with that request. http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/includes/site_images/spacers/spacer_60_30.gif

October 4th, 2007, 11:00 AM
I've only noticed the new newsstands.

October 6th, 2007, 09:47 AM
^ Photo?

October 6th, 2007, 09:52 AM
I've yet to see one of the new news-stands in real life, but CURBED (http://curbed.com/archives/2007/10/05/the_changing_face_of_gum_sales_underwhelming.php) ran a story yesterday ...

The Changing Face of Gum Sales: Underwhelming

Friday, October 5, 2007, by Joey


Commercial broker Bob Egan (http://www.spacefindernyc.com/index.htm) snapped these photos of one of those
newfangled futuristic newsstands. This one was just installed at Madison
Avenue and 42nd Street, and we're a little bummed that they don't quite
appear to be as pimp-my-newsstand as initially promised (http://curbed.com/archives/2007/09/13/new_look_newsstands_join_bus_shelters_on_the_stree ts.php). However, the guys
in them look much less likely to get killed, so there's a plus.

· New Look Newsstands Join Bus Shelters on the Streets (http://curbed.com/archives/2007/09/13/new_look_newsstands_join_bus_shelters_on_the_stree ts.php) [Curbed]

October 6th, 2007, 10:30 AM

January 10th, 2008, 01:26 PM
January 10, 2008, 12:41 pm

New Yorkers, You May Be Excused: A Pay Toilet Opens

By Jennifer 8. Lee (http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/author/jlee/)

NYTimes City Room


Daniel L. Doctoroff, the outgoing deputy mayor for economic development, performed a ceremonial flush of the first permanent pay toilet in New York City. (Photo: G. Paul Burnett/The New York Times)

Few toilets — if any — have ever received the level of government and media fanfare that greeted the new public pay potty that opened today in Madison Square Park. First, the full force of New York City’s newspapers, television and radio were there to tape, record and take notes on the first flushes. Second, the toilet is the product (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/22/nyregion/22furniture.html) of an on-and-off decades efforts (detailed below) by city officials to, uh, serve the needs of New Yorkers.

So it was understandable that the city officials reveled in the toilet paper roll-cutting ceremony (which, fittingly, they did with their hands) on Madison Avenue, between 23rd and 24th Streets. But they couldn’t resist the temptation of scatological humor: “No. 1!” (Janette Sadik-Khan, transportation commissioner), “in loo of” (Adrian Benepe, parks commissioner), “doesn’t block pedestrian movement” (Daniel L. Doctoroff, outgoing deputy mayor for economic development).

The kiosk, made of tempered glass and stainless steel, is about the size of a newsstand, with an automatic sliding door that opens when a deposit of 25 cents is made. It will initially be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (bad news for late-night revelers), though those hours may be adjusted.

The toilet itself is made of silvery metal, and more rectangular with curved edges than the familiar oval shape. Flushing, as on an airplane, is done at the press of a button. And men, take note: There is no toilet seat to leave up. There are toilet covers available. Also inside are a sink, a mirror and a hand dryer.

A user has a (generous) 15-minute period of privacy before the doors pop open — with a warning light and alarm going off when there are only three minutes left. In between is an automatic 90-second self-cleaning process, which will be one of the great mysteries of New York going forward, since it happens only when the doors were closed. But the news media was given a behind-the-scenes peek at the process: for one, a sweeping arm sprays disinfectant over the toilet, before it blows heat to dry it. And jets propel about seven gallons of water with disinfectant on the floor, which is not dried, leaving it wet for the next user.

There are all sorts of “just in case” precautions in place. For one, there are two red emergency buttons: one small and waist-high, the other big and toward the floor, in case someone falls. There is also a separate yellow button to reach an operator. The toilets are locked every night to prevent someone from camping out inside. And lastly, the floor sensors have both a maximum (currently about 550 pounds) and minimum (45 pounds) weight allowance, or the doors will not close. The minimum is to prevent small children from getting trapped inside. The maximum allowance is a bit of strange choice — as it is generous to allow two, or maybe even three, people inside. (Are they trying to prevent a party?)

The pay toilets are part of a $1 billion street-furniture arrangement with Cemusa (http://www.cemusa.com/web/prehome.htm), a Spanish outdoor-advertising conglomerate to provide matching bus shelters, newsstands, bike parking racks and pay toilets. Since Cemusa makes money off the advertising on the “street furniture,” it actually pays the city: $1 billion in fees, and another $400 million in New York promotional advertising on other structures the company operates outside New York.
So far, one-third of the 3,300 bus shelters, 39 of the 330 newsstands and the first of four bike-parking shelters have been installed. But the toilets are probably the most complex structure of all. Even with a quarter fee, they, they are not cheap to run (with staff members having to check in every night and morning at least) and not particularly environmentally friendly (as at least 14 gallons of water are used for each use, between the flushing and the cleaning).

Thus, the Bloomberg administration was clever, perhaps, in wrapping the toilets into a contract proposal with other, far more lucrative, street furniture, given the pay toilets’ long and tortured history in New York City.
In 1975, the state outlawed pay toilets, on the theory coin-operated stalls in public restrooms discriminated against women. In 1990, a group of homeless people sued (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C0CE5D8113FF932A35752C1A9669582 60) New York City and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for access to public toilets; the state granted the city an exception to the ban in 1993.

In 1992, the administration of Mayor David N. Dinkins authorized J. C. Decaux (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D0CE0DE163AF934A15755C0A9679582 60), a French company that has built public toilets throughout Europe, to install six toilets around the city as an experiment. Three were about the size of airplane toilets; the rest were large enough to accommodate a wheelchair. They were paired, one large structure and one small one, at three locations.
That experiment repeatedly stumbled.

The founder of J. C. Decaux was charged in Belgium (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E0CE7D91131F936A35755C0A9649582 60) with violating a law that forbids political contributions by companies with municipal contracts.
The City Council expressed reservations (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F0CE4DA133BF934A15752C0A9659582 60) about whether access to the disabled would be adequate, but then backed down (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F0CE3DC153AF93BA15752C0A9659582 60). J. C. Decaux (http://www.jcdecauxna.com/pages/Default.aspx) and Gannett, another leading outdoor advertising company, eventually lost interest (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F0CE6DC1639F932A35753C1A9659582 60) in the project after it became clear that the number of ads per toilet kiosk would be limited to two.

Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Dinkins’s successor, tried to jump-start the effort, proposing hundreds of self-cleaning public toilets on the streets, to be subsidized by selling advertising space. In 1994, the City Council shelved the plan (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F0DE5D9143AF932A35750C0A9629582 60) because of last-minute concerns over the height of the toilets. By the end of that year, there was just one pay toilet left (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9903E5DB1739F933A1575BC0A9629582 60), in City Hall Park, and plans for a pilot project (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9903E5DB1739F933A1575BC0A9629582 60). That effort collapsed in 1997.

Chronicling this sad history and the persistent dearth of toilets (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C04E2DB113EF932A25751C0A9669C8B 63) in 2000, Clyde Haberman wrote, “The fact remains that this is one of the few great world cities that make no attempt to help people cope with so basic a need, a situation that constantly amazes residents and visitors alike.”
In the meantime, it has been left to private groups to pick up the toilet slack, typically only for temporary periods. In 2001, the 34th Street Partnership, a business improvement district, temporarily installed two pay toilets (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=990DE4DF1F3DF93BA25752C0A9679C8B 63) in Midtown.

Those who planned to use the toilet today did not seem to be discouraged by that long history of defeat.

John Mack, 35, of Brooklyn staked out the toilet today, waiting for the demonstrations to end, so he could be the first to use it. He had come knowing it would be on the nightly news, but it wasn’t entirely a self-promotional gimmick. “I actually do have to use the bathroom,” he said.

January 10th, 2008, 01:33 PM
I can think of several ways to better spend the money it is costing to put up what will become city eye-sores :confused:

January 10th, 2008, 01:46 PM
People need them.

January 10th, 2008, 04:21 PM
Plus, the taxpayers are NOT paying for them, CEMUSA is (they get the ad revenue):

The pay toilets are part of a $1 billion street-furniture arrangement with Cemusa (http://www.cemusa.com/web/prehome.htm), a Spanish outdoor-advertising conglomerate to provide matching bus shelters, newsstands, bike parking racks and pay toilets. Since Cemusa makes money off the advertising on the “street furniture,” it actually pays the city: $1 billion in fees, and another $400 million in New York promotional advertising on other structures the company operates outside New York.

January 10th, 2008, 06:32 PM
True, but that's where the plethora of Starbucks come in handy, gotta love how often times the line for the bathroom is longer than the line at the counter... I guess time will tell how useful they become

January 13th, 2008, 05:48 PM
In 1975, the state outlawed pay toilets, on the theory coin-operated stalls in public restrooms discriminated against women.
How so?

January 13th, 2008, 07:19 PM
Men could use the non-pay stand up urinals, while the women had to pay to get inside a stall.

Same job. Different cost.

January 13th, 2008, 07:25 PM
^ Shoulda charged for the urinals.

January 13th, 2008, 07:42 PM
Never would've happened. Men made the rules.

January 13th, 2008, 07:44 PM
A paranoid thought.

(Anyway, I bet it was mostly men in the state government who outlawed the pay toilets.)

January 13th, 2008, 07:51 PM
Well you don't expect that men would have equalized the playing field (or should that be the peeing field :confused: ) by making men pay a quarter to take a leak, do you?

April 22nd, 2008, 05:19 PM
Has anyone been by the Meatpacking District lately? They reconfigured the traffic and have filled in most of the large expanse of cobblestone street with planters, large sitting-stones, stone bollards, and street furniture. Now a huge amount of space has been turned over to the pedestrians - and it is happily appreciated.

I couldn't find anything about it online except this Sept. '07 excerpt from spacing Toronto (http://spacing.ca/wire/2007/09/17/new-york-to-get-naked-streets/).

September 17th, 2007

New York to get naked (streets)

Posted by Joseph Clement (http://spacing.ca/wire/author/joe/)


NEW YORK — In a city where pedestrian traffic rivals that of the vehicular congestion it’s not uncommon for the mass of walkers to spill out on to the streets in an attempt to negotiate the most efficient path. With most of Manhattan’s blocks being constructed on the grid system and with a majority of streets being one-way, negotiating traffic is relatively easy. It’s not until you encounter the diagonal streets of mid and lower Manhattan that complications in pedestrian and vehicular interactions begin to arise. In the last three years, in two particularly expansive triangular intersections in the meatpacking district of Chelsea, three pedestrians have been killed and numerous injured.

In an attempt to mitigate pedestrian/vehicular interactions plans have been put forth to redesign these two problematic intersections. The ones in question are the 9th Avenue-Hudson-14th Street (shown above) intersection and the 9th Avenue-Gansevoort-Little 12th Street crossroads (shown below). With help from local residents groups, the New York City Transportation Department decided to create Woonerfs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woonerf) (also known as naked or shared streets), a Dutch-creation which blurs the line between pedestrian and vehicular zones. Working with the existing cobblestone, the streets will be narrowed and raised to the level of the sidewalks, eliminating curbs and using landscape elements such as planters to create some definition of space. The elevation change and use of textured materials signals to the drivers that they are entering a zone which is not clearly defined as pedestrian or vehicular. Reminiscent of many European squares this type of program has proven to be effective in slowing traffic, improving pedestrian movement, and reducing traffic accidents and fatalities.

http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1154/1398507006_a21788cadf.jpg (http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1154/1398507006_3cf0e2b69e_o.jpg)
click on photo to see larger version (http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1154/1398507006_3cf0e2b69e_o.jpg)

In an initial effort to implement the plan, 9th Avenue has been narrowed expanding the pedestrian realm. It is expected to take five years to completely transform the intersections so in the interim, a program of lane narrowing has been put in place allowing pedestrians to reclaim some of the roadway. The change was immediate. Without any hesitation, people spilled out onto the cobble stone, some gathering in groups to observe the architecture from better vantage points, others to maneuver around the slow moving groups of people. Some café’s immediately opened up expanded patios ringed with planters of large palm trees. Not only was the change in pedestrian traffic noticeably different, but the vehicular traffic has begun to change. As people move further away from the building edge and out into these undefined urban spaces the traffic slows, recognizing the undefined nature of the space.

Instead of regulating these intersections further with planted medians, stop signs and traffic lights, a different pedestrian-oriented approach is being experimented with. And it appears to be working. It will be interesting to follow the developments of these intersections as they grow into a hybrid pedestrian/vehicular zone.

photos by Joe Clement (http://www.flickr.com/photos/spacing/)

April 22nd, 2008, 07:28 PM
Curbed has been all over it ...

CurbedWire: Strange Rock Formations Attack MePa (http://curbed.com/archives/2008/04/15/curbedwire_strange_rock_formations_attack_mepa.php )

http://curbednetwork.com/cache/gallery/2375/2416465877_968ec03c3d_s.jpg (http://curbed.com/archives/2008/04/15/curbedwire_strange_rock_formations_attack_mepa.php ?o=0).....http://curbednetwork.com/cache/gallery/3235/2417284986_f14e2ed189_s.jpg (http://curbed.com/archives/2008/04/15/curbedwire_strange_rock_formations_attack_mepa.php ?o=1).....http://curbednetwork.com/cache/gallery/3019/2416465919_203fe2c35e_s.jpg (http://curbed.com/archives/2008/04/15/curbedwire_strange_rock_formations_attack_mepa.php ?o=2).....http://curbednetwork.com/cache/gallery/2097/2416465997_8f922e1f00_s.jpg (http://curbed.com/archives/2008/04/15/curbedwire_strange_rock_formations_attack_mepa.php ?o=3)MEATPACKING DISTRICT—A special Curbed tipster sent along the above photos
of the MePa getting rocked, for reasons we are too ignorant to understand, and too
lazy to research. What gives?


Work on MePa 'Gansevoort Plaza' Underway (http://curbed.com/archives/2008/04/10/work_on_mepa_gansevoort_plaza_underway.php)

April 10, 2008,
by Robert

[Photo courtesy of Streets Blog (http://www.streetsblog.org/2008/04/09/eyes-on-the-street-get-ready-for-the-new-gansevoort/)]

Work is underway on the new pedestrian plaza on Gansevoort Street that
is intended to transform a really wide intersection with a crazy traffic pattern
into a place where people will sit at tables and under trees. (This is not be
confused with the Bizarro MePa Plaza (http://curbed.com/archives/2007/07/12/work_begins_on_bizarro_meatpacking_plaza.php) on Ninth Avenue opposite the Apple
store, which was last year's project and is already open.) Per Streets Blog,
which has been following the plan from the beginning, the orange barrels in
the pic above "and the dashed lines appear to demarcate what will soon be
new pedestrian areas and rows of planters." Work has apparently
progressed a lot today, as an email reports: "They are placing concrete
dividers and seating. The weather makes it tempting to ditch work, but this
new public space is going to be a great diversion for the neighborhood and
the perfect place to have lunch outdoors." Ah, to lounge in MePa Gansevoort

· Eyes on the Street: Get Ready for the New Gansevoort (http://www.streetsblog.org/2008/04/09/eyes-on-the-street-get-ready-for-the-new-gansevoort/) [Streets Blog]
· A New Vision for the Meatpacking District (http://www.streetsblog.org/2006/10/23/a-new-vision-for-the-meatpacking-district/) [Streets Blog]
· Work Begins on Bizarro Meatpacking Plaza (http://curbed.com/archives/2007/07/12/work_begins_on_bizarro_meatpacking_plaza.php) [Curbed]


April 23rd, 2008, 03:03 PM
This got moved along quickly. The traffic cones are gone and in their place are granite benches already. Here I am enjoying them on Sunday.

May 19th, 2008, 04:58 PM

Villager photos by Katie DeWitt

Above and below, the new Gansevoort Plaza, with added stone slabs, evocative bollards and Meat Marketgoers pausing to sit on some of the slabs.

The Villager (http://www.thevillager.com/)

Meat Market plaza plan is not ‘breast’ idea, some say

May 14 - 20, 2008

By Katie DeWitt

Some are celebrating it as a reclaimed pedestrian space and a welcome amenity for local residents and tourists. Others, like longtime neighborhood resident Erik Wensburg, are questioning the “mammary motif” of the circular bollards. But everyone agrees that the once-chaotic and hazardous five-way intersection at Gansevoort St. and Ninth Ave. is no longer what it used to be.

Less than a month ago, construction was completed on the new Gansevoort Plaza in the heart of the historic Meatpacking District. The cobblestone intersection, formerly a bottleneck clogged by truck and taxi traffic, now is home to an array of scattered tree planters, stone slabs conducive to sitting and bollards with white reflectors on top resembling, in the eyes of some, a female breast. Meanwhile, traffic flow has been reduced to a single lane.

The project is the fruit of a community-based effort that began in 2005 with the recognition that the Meatpacking District was moving farther away from its traditional uses and toward a new identity as a center for nightlife and upscale shopping, with all the traffic that accompanies such a change. A group of community leaders formed the Greater Gansevoort Urban Improvement Project to spearhead a ground-up initiative to address their concerns about traffic, safety and preservation of a neighborhood that had been designated a historic district by the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission in 2003.

After three years of extensive community outreach and close collaboration with the city’s Department of Transportation, the traffic-alleviation project was executed in a matter of weeks. With the arrival of spring and the influx of pedestrians and outdoor diners to the Meatpacking District, local residents and business owners are experiencing firsthand the immediate effects of the final product.

Community Board 2, which covers the area between 14th St., Third Ave./the Bowery, Canal St. and the Hudson River, actively supported the project and was involved in each step of the visioning and design process. C.B. 2 Chairperson Brad Hoylman attributed much of the ease with which the project was facilitated to D.O.T.’s willingness to work with community members at a very local level.

“What was path-breaking was that we reclaimed space that was formerly for cars and pedestrians, and we did it in a way that came from the ground up,” Hoylman said. “I see it as a model for the future development of public space.”

Florent Morellet, who owns a restaurant on Gansevoort St., headed up the G.G.U.I.P. steering committee with Jo Hamilton, a Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation trustee. Morellet identified the project’s major triumph as the explicit prioritization of pedestrians in a neighborhood that has transformed from transit-dependent to a destination in and of itself.

“I have seen so many people sitting on the blocks and meandering in the plaza feeling comfortable and safe, and it’s clear that taxis and cars are now driving in a pedestrian area instead of the other way around,” Morellet said of the new pedestrian-friendly plaza. “A couple of people complained to me that it took them forever to get to my restaurant in a cab at 1 in the morning, and I said to them, ‘Did it ever occur to you that you could have walked that last block?’ ”

But for David Rabin, co-owner of nearby restaurants Los Dados and Lotus and president and founder of the Meatpacking District Initiative, an organization that represents more than 200 local businesses in the vicinity between 16th to Gansevoort Sts., the strict limitation on automobile traffic may not bode well for business year-round.

“The notion of increasing pedestrian use is an admirable one,” he said. “But, if I own a restaurant or a shop and it’s a cold and rainy evening during the holiday season or in February, I want my customers to be able to get to my front door. But I am glad that D.O.T. seems willing to continue the process and work through these issues.”

The plaza is a temporary D.O.T. project that will continue to be shaped by community input and available funding down the line. The streetscape improvement was paid for out of D.O.T.’s budget, with contributions by M.P.D.I. for additional plantings. M.P.D.I. has assumed responsibility for the plaza’s maintenance for the meantime. However, M.P.D.I. ultimately hopes a formal business improvement district, or BID, is approved for the area, after which a funding stream will become available for streetscape maintenance. M.P.D.I. is four months into the roughly 18-month process to gain approval from the city to form a BID.

For now, M.P.D.I. will be distributing a survey to local residents and business owners to solicit feedback on the plaza’s design and use. The organization will then compile these results and submit them to D.O.T. for review. The space is currently being considered for outdoor events and a weekly Greenmarket.

Some active residents, however, have already informally let their opinions be known, expressing concerns over the choices of materials used and design scheme. Marge Colt, vice president of the Horatio Street Association, pointed specifically to what she called the “defacement” of the cobblestone street, the “senseless” traffic pattern and the “conflicting” seating designs.

“I think the whole thing is an abomination,” Colt said. “It looks like it has been thrown together by people who have no design experience. And the breasts must go.”

The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation has not yet conducted a formal assessment of the new plaza. But G.V.S.H.P.’s executive director, Andrew Berman, acknowledged that the design might be a bit “more elaborate” than many community members had expected. A crucial piece of his organization’s involvement with the project was to ensure that the cobblestone streets’ character be maintained, something Berman’s group will be examining carefully in the upcoming months.

An additional issue some community members have raised is that the plaza may promote loitering and other “undesired” uses in the evening hours. Ian Dutton, vice chairperson of the Community Board 2 Traffic and Transportation Committee, acknowledged that people have voiced this fear, but said he has heard nothing to corroborate it in reality.

“Being younger and part of the nightlife around here, I’ve been out there after midnight and I’ve seen nothing worse than the usual drunken revelry that was already here before,” Dutton said.

The plaza’s pedestrianization may actually create a safer space at night because of the increased number of eyes on the street, rather than in cars, added community activist Zack Winestine.

While many have already passed judgment on the plaza one way or the other, it’s still early in the process of an ongoing dialogue, stressed Annie Washburn, M.P.D.I.’s executive director. While she believes some changes need to be made, she said she also hopes neighbors understand that some design decisions with which they may not agree had to be made because of D.O.T. regulations.

“Every time they make a decision, they have to make sure a fire truck can pass through or a street sweeper can fit in the lane,” Washburn explained.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held this Fri., May 16, at noon in the plaza with Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Representatives from D.O.T.’s Manhattan Borough Commissioner’s Office will attend to discuss the details of the design process. D.O.T. is not commenting on the project until that date.


© 2008 Community Media, LLC

May 21st, 2008, 01:54 PM
They look more like bon-bons or eyeballs.

If you chopped them in half then I could see the breast thing, but seriously, WTH are these people sniffing?

May 31st, 2008, 09:12 PM









May 31st, 2008, 09:18 PM
The first plaza is amazing. The second one is awful in my opinion.

Thank you for the pictures MidtownGuy!

The Benniest
May 31st, 2008, 09:59 PM
Wonderful pictures MidtownGuy. If I may, where were the "aerial" shots of the first plaza taken? What a great angle.

I agree with you Doc. The first plaza is gorgeous while the second is severly abstract and ugly. Just out of curiousity, does anyone know what the name of the diner in THIS (http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2165/2540298108_61fc1fddd9_b.jpg) picture? It's on the left side of picture.


The Benniest
May 31st, 2008, 10:09 PM
Nevermind about where the photo(s) were taken. After seeing this (http://www.blogsmithmedia.com/www.engadget.com/media/2007/12/applestore14th030.jpg) picture from another website, I now know.

Brainfart! :o

June 1st, 2008, 01:08 PM
Nice pictures of the area. I'm finding both of those recent additions to the neighborhood tastefully done. The second one's the Hotel Gansevoort, right? What's the first one?

June 1st, 2008, 03:48 PM
the first one looks too temporary.. i wish they would have used more permanent looking planters or something.

the second one doesn't look like the place i would like to lounge:) seems fitting tho to just go wait for a friend there lol

June 1st, 2008, 04:07 PM
I wonder what's the deal with the white nipples on the balls. Any purpose? Without the nipples, people might sit on them. In Rome I remember round balls in the cobblestone area around the Pantheon that we sat on and they looked good sans nipples. This looks goofy.
I think these areas are a temporary solution that will become more refined/permanent, at least I hope. It's encouraging to see the City finally developing more areas for pedestrians where they obviously make sense. With the addition of the bike lanes and more trees along 9th avenue just to the North we're seeing a great trend. I hope it's aggressively continued.

June 1st, 2008, 05:02 PM
It's all interim.


June 1st, 2008, 07:53 PM
This happened fast. Deserves emulation.

June 1st, 2008, 09:02 PM
I gotta check it out. I think this a great idea and hope it becomes permanent and those balls don't look liek breasts. I went to Italy this time last yearand saw what your talkin about with the bollards around the Pantheon. They look like unfinished snowmen to me. lol

August 23rd, 2008, 05:38 PM
MTA to Install Raised Subway Vents, Bike Racks in Tribeca

By Matt Dunning


A dramatic change along some of Tribeca's sidewalks is coming.
Hoping to avoid a redux of the catastrophic flooding that shut down several of the city’s subway lines last summer, the NYC Transit recently revealed plans to install raised ventilation grates along four blocks of West Broadway and one block of Varick Street.

And above each grate?

A bicycle rack capable of holding up to eight bikes with stainless steel benches jutting out from either end.

The 16 raised grates, ranging from 16 to 26 feet long, will be placed on West Broadway between Chambers and Leonard and Varick Street between Leonard and Franklin.

In order to prevent rain water from spilling through to the subway lines and platforms below, the new grates, designed by Grimshaw Architects, will rise six inches above the sidewalk.

Since most of the grates that the MTA plans to replace are within the Tribeca Historic District, the design came before Community Board 1’s Landmarks Committee this summer. Although the committee was asked to opine only on the appropriateness of the design to the historic district—the city’s Landmarks Pre­s­ervation Commission and Public Design
Commission had already approved the design—the committee took aim at the entire proposal.


In its advisory resolution, it rejected the grates as “totally inappropriate for the Historic District” and said they would further clog the area’s already crowded streets. (All told, pedestrians stand to lose more than 1,500 square feet of sidewalk space on West Broadway.)

“I think it’s absurd for the MTA, while it’s struggling with a deficit, to mitigate for a ‘hundred-year storm,’” said committee co-chairman, Bruce Ehrmann.

The stretch of track between the Franklin Street and Chambers Street stations, NYC Transit design manager Stephen Petrillo told the committee, was one of the worst-affected sections of the subway system during the freak thunderstorms on Aug. 8, 2007 that brought train and bus service to a near standstill.

“It was unprecedented within our system,” Petrillo said. “After that event a commitment was made to the Governor...to mitigate these problems so they don’t happen again.”

Similar programs are planned for other trouble spots identified after the 2007 flood, including sections of upper Broadway and Queens.

“The grates are more than capable of dealing with falling rainwater,” Petrillo said, adding that the problems start when water collects on the sidewalk and streets, and then pours down the ventilation shafts.

Next month, a prototype of the new grate is scheduled to be installed on the east side of West Broadway between Thomas and Worth. Petrillo said the entire project should be completed in March.


The Tribeca Trib · 401 Broadway, 5th Floor · New York, NY · 10013 · 212.219.9709

August 23rd, 2008, 10:42 PM
More of the Grimshaw uglies.

How does this guy get these jobs all the way from England?

August 24th, 2008, 12:51 AM
i dont think its bad

August 24th, 2008, 06:13 PM
Rejecting the design because it is ugly is one thing but I'm baffled that the complaints involved, "loss of sidewalk." Pretty much all of Tribeca has very little foot traffic aside from those living in the area. I have never once seen West Broadway in that stretch clogged with people. The tourists head to Soho and don't go that far south. I think the idea is great, if only the design were a bit better.

August 24th, 2008, 06:31 PM
The stretch of West Broadway north of Chambers has lots of pedestrian traffic. It's somewhat less between Worth and Leonard, but that will probably change with the NYLS library and 180 West Broadway projects.

August 30th, 2008, 04:41 AM
Newsstands of Tomorrow Get Mixed Reviews Today

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2008/08/30/nyregion/30newsstand_600.jpg Andrew Henderson/The New York Times
Residents complain that a newsstand in Greenwich Village has been closed for two months while the new version is installed.

By GLENN COLLINS (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/c/glenn_collins/index.html?inline=nyt-per)
Published: August 29, 2008

They are like extraterrestrial visitors in the tired streetscape, gleaming new stainless-steel-and-tempered-glass newsstands that carry grand lighted advertisements. They’ve been dropping onto the sidewalks of New York — quite literally, as cranes swing them down from flatbed trucks. So far, 97 of 330 have been installed.

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2008/08/30/nyregion/30newsstand_450.jpgJames Estrin/The New York Times
One of the new Cemusa newsstands was installed last week near the Queens Center mall.

But there have been complications. The city’s new newsstands, all of a standardized design, have drawn complaints from some about their sameness, not to mention about leaking roofs, inadequate locks that invite break-ins, and a design that has compelled some operators to spend thousands of dollars on customization.

And many complain that the installation process is so slow that it puts operators out of business for weeks or longer. Furthermore, critics say that even expensive, modern newsstands are being replaced.

Cemusa, the Madrid-based advertising company that has a 20-year street-furniture contract to build 3,300 bus shelters and 20 pay toilets, is also handling the newsstands, replacing the hodgepodge of largely nondescript and sometimes shabby newsstands that have long been staples of the boroughs.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/b/michael_r_bloomberg/index.html?inline=nyt-per) has enthusiastically endorsed not only the new Cemusa street furniture, but also its revenue potential. The city has already received $118.4 million, and Cemusa has guaranteed at least $1 billion over two decades.

Cemusa has brought “a better design to newsstands, improving the streetscape in a coordinated way with the bus shelters and pay toilets,” said Brooke McKenna, an assistant commissioner in the Department of Transportation who coordinates street-furniture financing. “It’s a unique, iconic look, and brings a positive, coordinated feel to the streets.”

But critics are quick to note their objections. Though previously newsstands were installed overnight or during a single weekend, now “for many operators it is taking five to eight weeks,” said Robert S. Bookman, counsel for the New York City Newsstand Operators Association. “While the stands are being constructed, they are out of business.”

At the traffic island formed by Christopher Street, Grove Street and Seventh Avenue South in Manhattan, it has taken two months to put in a new Cemusa newsstand, according to residents.

“They just gutted the old stand in one day, brought the new one in on a truck, and then it just sat there, empty,” said Rachel Barrett, 27, who lives two blocks away. “The old stand was open 24/7, and made the neighborhood safer. Without a newsstand, that corner did not become a good corner, late at night.”

“I sure got a lot more money when the stand was open,” said a 62-year-old street person who goes by the name Dayo and for years has occupied the traffic island with her begging cup.

The delay was caused by “an exceptional situation” involving electrical installation problems, said Laura Fries, a spokeswoman for Cemusa. “We expect the operator to be able to open it this week.” She added: “With any kind of construction, there are permits and multiple parties involved,” adding that delays were caused by “installing electricity, and all the other elements.”

Ms. McKenna said she hoped the installations could be completed within three years. Thus far, 1,538 of the new Cemusa bus shelters have been installed, out of 3,129 on the streets. Only one pay toilet has been installed, at Madison Square Park.

Before 2003, newsstand operators paid the city a licensing fee, but owned and paid for their newsstands and, under certain circumstances, could sell them. Now the newsstands are owned by Cemusa, and operators pay a two-year city license fee of $1,076.

Some 280 current operators are being given new newsstands, free of charge, and Cemusa is responsible for maintaining them. But the newsstand operators do not share in advertising revenues. New operators will pay Cemusa a one-time fee of $27,000 for their newsstands, Ms. McKenna said.

Michael Hajovsky, who has owned newsstands for two decades, runs a pre-Cemusa stand on 46th Street and Broadway — soon to be replaced — and a new Cemusa stand at Flatbush Avenue and Nevins Street in Downtown Brooklyn. He is still angry that his two stands “were confiscated without any compensation by New York City,” he said. “In a couple of years I would like to retire,” Mr. Hajovsky, 66, said. “But now I’m no longer an owner, I am a renter, and my pension is very small.”

The operators’ association sued the city to stop the implementation of the street-furniture bill adopted in 2003, and were joined by several newspapers, including The New York Times. They claimed that the newsstands were being improperly taken over without compensation, but in 2006 lost in State Supreme Court.

Mr. Bookman estimated that each of the Cemusa newsstands cost $100,000 to install; the company would not reveal the expense “for competitive reasons,” Ms. Fries said. Despite the high capital cost, and a global advertising downturn, there is “no question,” Ms. Fries said, that Cemusa has the capital resources to complete its 20-year contract.

Newsstand operators are increasingly from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Mr. Bookman said. At best they make a $30,000 to $40,000 yearly profit at a good location, and can clear another $20,000 to $30,000 from a lottery machine. Newsstand operation “is hardly a growth industry,” he added, referring to the troubled newspaper industry. He argued that the current regulations offer little incentive for potential operators to open new stands.

But Ms. McKenna said that “we are seeing a steady stream of new applications, and we think the new newsstands make the business just as attractive to operators, if not more so.”

Even expensive, relatively new newsstands are being replaced to conform to the new street furniture guidelines. In 2001 the Grand Central Partnership paid $80,000 to install a red and forest-green newsstand at Lexington Avenue near 51st Street, and it “has been a success for us,” said Marc A. Wurzel, general counsel for the partnership. It will be replaced by Cemusa.

The current stand is “seven years old, but it looks brand new,” said Linda Ponzini, 52, who runs it with her husband, Louis, 53. “I wish I could stay in it forever.” But Mr. Wurzel said the partnership approves of the new street furniture.

Mr. Bookman said an initial group of newsstands installed last fall “leaked terribly and had locks that were not adequate.”

Mr. Hajovsky said that his new stand “leaked from the top when it rained,” adding that since then “they put up some rubber strips, so it still leaks but not as badly.”

He added: “For 20 years I had newsstands and never a burglary. But the new Cemusa stand, they broke in twice and took everything.” He installed stronger locks.

The leaking problem “has been addressed,” Ms. Fries said, “and upgrades were done.” Of the break-ins, she said “We’ve fitted new locks” that prevented burglaries. Mr. Bookman said that Cemusa “has been responsive to the complaints, and so has the Department of Transportation.”

But to Mr. Hajovsky, the Cemusa versions are not newsstands but “shabbily constructed advertising boxes.”

Some operators, however, prefer the new stands. “It’s modern, my customers like it,” said Ambalal Patel, 65, who owns a new Cemusa stand at Ninth Avenue and 34th Street that was installed after a car destroyed his old stand in an early-morning accident in June. He has had no leaks, “and no complaints,” he said, but he has had to install $2,700 in new customized racks for his candy and magazine offerings.

Some New Yorkers also approve of the new stands. “The old one was gloomy and dark,” said Tony Hogge, a 47-year-old architect who works near Mr. Patel’s newsstand on Ninth Avenue. “The new one is bright and airy.”

But, though they come in nine configurations, according to the department, some connoisseurs of the old newsstands are offended by their conformity.

The new Cemusa installations “are sleek, cold, unfeeling and robotic,” Ms. Barrett said. “They have no life or character in them. They just increase the mallification and commercialization of the cityscape.”

Ms. Barrett, a photographer, has spent two years documenting 236 of the city’s old newsstands in Manhattan, some of which are displayed on her Web site, www.rachelbarrett.net (http://www.rachelbarrett.net/).

“Everything in the city,” Ms. Barrett said, “is a brand now.”


Copyright 2008 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

August 30th, 2008, 10:11 AM

August 30th, 2008, 01:33 PM
These new stands don't look bad at all, a vast improvement from the old and rusty newsstands of the past.


August 30th, 2008, 02:39 PM
New ones are slick and boring.

Nasty old ones had character.

Travis Bickle would ram his cab right through one of the new ones.

August 30th, 2008, 03:04 PM
The new ones will get nasty after a while. Then they won't be slick and boring anymore. They'll have character.

August 30th, 2008, 03:20 PM
Decrepitude forms a patina.

August 30th, 2008, 03:35 PM
The new ones will get nasty after a while. Then they won't be slick and boring anymore. They'll have character.

Well in THEORY Cemusa is responsible for keeping them polished and clean. Whether or not that happens and what happens after the 20 year contract ends it yet to be seen. There are certain cases where I think uniformity in a city works. These stands, bus shelters, and subway entrances all definately fit into that category. I actually like them. Now why didn't the article touch on the fact that there is still only 1 pay toilet installed after all of this time. Let's get going on the other 29 shall we?

August 30th, 2008, 04:05 PM
Just one, and folks still aren't sure how it works ...

Toilet Training in Madison Square Park (http://curbed.com/archives/2008/08/29/toilet_training_in_madison_square_park.php)

September 3rd, 2008, 02:26 PM
I think they fit in some areas, but not in others (especially near the classic subway entrances).

They have been taking forever to install som eof these guys, and they manage to put some in in the most inconvenient spots (outside the Verizon building on 42nd, that placement fits around the scaffolding, but between it, the scaffolding and the construction boards..... Oh, and the owner having all those coolers out front does not help matters....)

I don't mind a bit of standardization, but you would think they could come up with a bit more permutability to fit the neighborhoods they would be in, longer skinnier ones for the narrower sidewalks. Ones with side-windows or soemthing as well. Maybe even ones with a bit of classic flair to buffer the Stainless Steel and Glass structures that do NOT fit in the brownstone areas of the villages and Chinatown.....

October 1st, 2008, 04:15 PM
October 1, 2008, 3:05 pm

Three in One — Flood Protection, Benches and Bike Parking

By Jennifer 8. Lee (http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/author/jlee/)

TriBeCa has new street furniture that helps to prevent subway floods, but also incorporates bike parking and benches. (Photo: Metropolitan Transportation Authority)

It’s three in one: subway flood prevention, benches and sorely needed bicycle parking (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/01/nyregion/01bike.html).

Today in TriBeCa, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority unveiled its latest prototype design to protect subway grates from flooding. This one was done by Grimshaw Billings Jackson in conjunction with Systra/HNTB.

(The Queens version, an undulating form that referenced water (http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/19/new-subway-grates-add-aesthetics-to-flood-protection/), was released two weeks ago. It has benches but no bike parking.)

The TriBeCa prototype was installed in front of 151 West Broadway between Worth and Thomas Streets, but will be replicated at 15 locations (along West Broadway between Chambers and Leonard Streets, and on Varick Street between Leonard and Franklin Streets). The raised units, which have the benches on the ends and bike racks in the middle, will range in from 16 to 26 feet in length.

In the hope of preventing the kind of catastrophic flooding that crippled the subway system on Aug. 8, 2007 (http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/08/08/why-do-the-subways-flood/), the transportation authority began investigating elevated sidewalk grates last year with input from the Department of Transportation, the Public Design Commission (http://www.nyc.gov/html/artcom/html/home/home.shtml), the Landmarks Preservation Commission (http://www.nyc.gov/html/lpc/html/home/home.shtml) and the Municipal Art Society (http://www.mas.org/).

The subways are vulnerable to heavy rainfalls (http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/08/08/why-do-the-subways-flood/) when water seeps through tunnel walls and flows down subway grates faster than the sump pumps in 280 pump rooms can push it back up to street level.

As flood-control devices, the designs share a commonality: a protective collar, or sleeve, around ventilating grates that are typically set flush with the sidewalk. Everything else on top is a bonus. “Water used to be able to fly right now into the subway system; now the grate is raised up,” said Aaron Donovan, a spokesman for the transportation authority.

Three neighborhoods — parts of Jamaica, TriBeCa and the Upper West Side — were selected by hydrology experts as the most vulnerable to flooding. All three are low-lying, so the grates can serve as repositories for a larger area.

But the transportation authority is working with each community to come up with a design that is suitable for the neighborhood. The Upper West Side one, for example (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/24/nyregion/thecity/24benc.html), elicited protests because semicircular metal benches displaced cherished wooden ones in the Broadway Mall.

Clearly, the all-in-one multipurpose design is not an Upper West Side approach. An updated design involves the raised grates, but no new street furniture on top of it.

Instead, the wooden benches will be preserved, Mr. Donovan said.


Copyright 2008 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

October 1st, 2008, 09:35 PM
Three neighborhoods — parts of Jamaica, TriBeCa and the Upper West Side — were selected by hydrology experts as the most vulnerable to flooding. All three are low-lying, so the grates can serve as repositories for a larger area.

What part of the Upper West Side is "low-lying"?

If it is then I'm completely confused by the steep hike from Riverside Drive down to the edge of the Hudson River.

This subway exacavation map (below) shows a large valley (Manhattan Valley !!) north of the Upper West Side, and what appears to be a dell or basin near 96th Street (into which various streams could have drained and water collected), but the description in the article seems off the mark.


October 1st, 2008, 09:54 PM
I was talking some pictures of this prototype today on West Broadway (below Worth Street, in front of the great old Supreme Court Building at 151 W Broadway) and one of the guys who works in the loading dock at the big building next door at 159 - 163 W Broadway said this really messes up the trucks as they try to back up across the sidewalk -- apparently they used to be able to cut the corner (jumping the curb) and swing into the loading dock fairly easily -- but now the truck drivers have to do a few backs and forwards and hit the mark perfect to get into the loading dock.

The design is good. But there are grates leading down into the subway that run the full length of the block here. To have a half dozen (or more) of these all lined up at the curb for an entire block could be really awkward.


October 2nd, 2008, 04:42 AM
Clearly, the all-in-one multipurpose design is not an Upper West Side approach. An updated design involves the raised grates, but no new street furniture on top of it.

Instead, the wooden benches will be preserved, Mr. Donovan said.

At least this will please ablarc.

But I agree with you lofter, it does seem strange on the UWS.

I can only think that heavy rainwater must collect along this stretch of Broadway and there is a danger of flooding into the subway from that.

October 2nd, 2008, 01:40 PM
I think so too. It is probably a low lying area in relation to teh surrounding area that causes flooding from watershed from the higher elevations surrounding it.

Not exactly the same situation, but I will give them the benefit of the doubt when they call flooding in some areas.....

October 23rd, 2008, 04:17 AM
October 22, 2008, 4:02 pm

Leave Off the Last S, for Shelter

By David W. Dunlap (http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/author/david-w-dunlap/)

A bus stop shelter in Harlem misspells the name of Frederick Douglass. (Photo: David W. Dunlap/The New York Times)

As windbreaks, the new Cemusa (http://www.cemusany.com/web/en/indexnyc.aspx) bus-stop shelters are welcome. As protection from the rain, true havens. As pools of light when the streets are otherwise dark, they are a blessing.

As a history lesson? Not so hot.

At least, not the one at 125th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard (Eighth Avenue), which the shelter sign misspells in very large letters as “Douglas.”

When notified about the misspelling, Cemusa’s spokesman in New York, Justin Blake, replied in an e-mail message on Wednesday: “We appreciate you bringing this to our attention. A new sign has been ordered and we expect to install the corrected sign tomorrow morning.”

The name of Douglass (http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/bday/0207.html?scp=1&sq=Douglass&st=cse), a giant of the antislavery and civil rights movements who escaped bondage to become a leading abolitionist in the 19th century, has been associated with Eighth Avenue since 1950, when the traffic circle on the northwest corner of Central Park was renamed in his honor. Born Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, he took the name Douglass as a freeman, after Lord James of Douglas, a character in “The Lady of the Lake” by Sir Walter Scott.

So the orthographic challenge facing Cemusa is nothing new. The Douglass name has been misspelled before (and might still be) on city street signs (http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/09/27/two-brothers-sort-out-names-of-city-streets/). Actually, The Times has misspelled the name (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D04E1DB163AF937A25754C0A9629C8B 63) any number of times, as recently as last year — lest we be accused of living in a glas house.


Copyright 2008 (http://www.nytimes.com/ref/membercenter/help/copyright.html) The New York Times Company (http://www.nytco.com/)

December 22nd, 2008, 06:41 PM
Big City, Brighter Lights: Gotham's New LED Streetlamp Plan

Wired Magazine (http://www.wired.com/culture/design/magazine/16-12/st_streetlamp) / 12.2008

http://www.wired.com/images/article/magazine/1612/st_streetlamp_f.jpg (http://www.wired.com/culture/design/magazine/16-12/st_streetlamp#)

After half a century of walking their dogs under the same old streetlamps,
New Yorkers are ready for a new age of enlightenment. Gotham's own
Office for Visual Interaction (http://www.oviinc.com/profile/index.asp) won an international competition to design a
replacement. Its inspiration: LED headlights. "We took the same idea and
made it vertical," OVI's Enrique Peiniger (http://www.oviinc.com/profile/principals/enrique_peiniger.shtm) says. The new lamppost's 4-to 6-
foot head boasts up to 100 LEDs with multiple lenses that can be configured
to dial in specific lighting "footprints" of uniform brightness. For New York,
the coverage patterns will be tailored for three distinct situations—park,
street corner, and mid-block.

Top: Side View
Bottom: Bottom View


New York City Streetlight
New York, NY/USA

Office for Visual Interaction, Inc. (http://www.oviinc.com/projects/New_York_Streetlight/)
In 2004, an international design competition was launched to create a new standard streetlight for the City of New York. Our design was selected after a two-stage competition process, and will add to the City’s existing catalogue of fixtures to light streets, sidewalks, and parks within the city’s five boroughs.

In creating a streetlight that will become a new classic, we asked ourselves, “What is the light source of the future?” Hi-flux LEDs emerged as an outstanding solution. With their small size, low wattage, intensity, and extremely long life of over 50,000 hours, LEDs are preeminent as an energy efficient, minimal-maintenance source.

Rethinking the aesthetic potential of LED technology was a driving force for the streetlight’s elegant form. In contrast to the bulky cobra-heads associated with high-pressure sodium lamps, the streetlight takes on a slim, elongated profile enabled by the tiny size of its light source, which does not require a hefty decorative enclosure. Instead, the thin arc of the luminaire itself provides the necessary surface area for housing and cooling the LEDs. The revolutionary aesthetic of the streetlight is specifically derived from the requirements and possibilities of LED technology.

Client: NYC Department of Design & Construction/NYC Department of Transportation
Architect/Competition Phase: Thomas Phifer & Partners
Structural Engineer: Werner Sobek New York
Photovoltaic: Transsolar

Renderings: dbox
Graphics by OVI


LED design wins New York City streetlight competition

LEDs Magazine (http://www.ledsmagazine.com/features/1/12/2)

New Streetlights:


Light Distribution:


View of the streetlight design showing the 4 segments, each containing 16 LEDs.


Each 16-LED segment of the streetlight has an optical lens that incorporates light-shaping
film diffuser technology to achieve the required light distribution pattern.


Lights at Sunset:


April 16th, 2009, 09:46 PM
Downtown Express

C.B. 1 tries for screeching halt to new subway grate plan



April 16th, 2009, 11:42 PM
The problems that arise when a city (or parts thereof) are built upon an inadequately filled-in swamp.

April 17th, 2009, 07:14 AM
They're going to make walking along crowded streets more difficult, but I think they're trying to prepare for global warming.

April 17th, 2009, 09:53 AM
The most practical solution would be to put in some powered fans on stacks rather than depending on street grates.

Sort of like a Subway Snorkel.

The trick would be, how to get it to look decent and how to get a relatively cheap, tough and QUIET vent fan to do th wwork.

Hell, if they did it right, the stations might even be a bit COOLER!!!!!

April 17th, 2009, 10:42 AM
^ :confused:

How would fans (no matter how powerful) stop a flooding rush of water moving downhill from entering into openings on the street that lead down to subway tracks?

April 17th, 2009, 11:13 AM
^ :confused:

How would fans (no matter how powerful) stop a flooding rush of water moving downhill from entering into openings on the street that lead down to subway tracks?

Try reading what I said Lofty! ;)

fans on stacks

What, you thought I was saying get some electrical fans and place them up on piles of newspaper? :D

April 17th, 2009, 11:46 AM
I read ya ...

I still don't get it. Even if the fans sucked the water UP (after it already had flowed down through grates into the subway) where would it go once it was sucked up?

Isn't the problem that up on street level the curbs are too low to direct flooding water past the subway grates?

Not to mention that in this part of Manhattan the sewer pipes / drainage system as they now exist are insufficient to deal with overflow from downpours / gushers / water main breaks.

April 17th, 2009, 03:12 PM
I was more talking about puting something like teh con-ed steam chimneys over one of the grates and sealing the others in a bank. So instead of a long wavy grill that will cost more to make and install, or a boring looking plain raised box, it would be a solid sidewalk with a 6' chimney with a fan somewhere either in it, or along the duct/passage leading to the subway.

The only problem I would see would be two really. the first is how you mentioned it, if the water is coming from somewhere else (through the walls, cracked drainage, entrances) this does nothing.

The second would be what the PATH train has, wind tunnel effect. You close enough vents, there is not enough open grill (or chimney) to get all that air out in front of the train. You will get very windy platforms and entrances.

Benefits would be, the fans could probably pump more heat out than a simple passive vent, you will be venting the heat out above the pedestrian walkway, and it would be good for more than 12" of rain. It would also possibly cost less (no fancy grating).

April 19th, 2009, 12:45 AM
And how hot would underground get if the power failed and the fans stopped?

May 23rd, 2009, 08:52 AM
What's with the public toilets that were supposed to have cropped up all over the place by now?

May 23rd, 2009, 09:56 AM
The subway grates (http://www.wirednewyork.com/forum/showpost.php?p=254610&postcount=92) are mostly installed along West Broadway, north of Chambers. They actually look pretty good, are not in the way, and are used by bikers and pedestrians. There may be a problem on the west side of the street near Reade with the outdoor cafes.

The other design (http://www.wirednewyork.com/forum/showpost.php?p=281067&postcount=97) is really ugly. I've seen them along Astoria Blvd in Queens; they look worse than the picture.

May 24th, 2009, 07:46 PM
What has been done so far around town regarding the reclaiming of street space form cars is EXCELLENT! This area around the Flatiron Bldg. was a joy today, helping balance out some of the other nasty changes I noticed on my urban hike down the island. Nice giant rocks for sitting, in addition to tables with umbrellas, chairs, and planters. Yes...something good:)
This is change I can believe in.



Lots of folks using the new bike lane.


Send us some more furniture...demand is high!!:)

May 25th, 2009, 10:35 PM
What's with the public toilets that were supposed to have cropped up all over the place by now?

One has been installed at Greeley Square. I saw it last week. It had just be installed, but was not yet operational.

May 25th, 2009, 10:39 PM
Also, with regards to the post by MidtownGuy, I do think that this reclamation of roadway for pedestrian use will be the great legacy of Bloomberg. I do wish that in the coming years these will be made permanent (as in: proper curbs, landscaping, and furniture). As it is, it would be too easy to be returned to auto usage.

May 25th, 2009, 10:56 PM
Yup, this is my favorite policy of Bloomberg and I think Janette Sadik-Khan is tremendous:) I feel like sending her flowers.

December 11th, 2009, 05:19 AM
We Weren’t Quite Ready for the Modern Toilet Age



The fancy new toilets didn’t work out.

The state-of-the-art French automated self-cleaning pay toilets at Herald and Greeley Squares, unveiled in January 2001 with fanfare befitting a papal visit, worked about 90 percent of the time.

But that was not enough, said Daniel A. Biederman, president of the 34th Street Partnership, the business improvement district that runs the two triangular parklets north and south of West 34th Street and Broadway.
Besides, the toilets were a beast and an expense to maintain. Annoyingly, they needed a two-minute break between each user for the nozzles and sprays to do their thing. Most important, they never quite caught fire: Between the 25-cent entrance fee and what focus groups described as a profound mistrust of automation in the toilet sphere, use steadily dropped from 28,000 visits the first year to fewer than half that in 2007.
“It wasn’t a bad experience,” Mr. Biederman said. “It just wasn’t a great experience, and we wanted it to be great.”

And so, even as the city rolled out the first of its planned 20 automated pay toilets (different manufacturer; possibly fewer problems) with equal fanfare last year, the 34th Street Partnership, leader in the postmodernization of the urban public restroom, was bravely turning back the clock.

In May 2008, the partnership quietly shut down the A.P.T.’s.

This past summer, it replaced them with bathrooms cleaned the old-fashioned way: by hand.

And now, after a soft opening and a few months working out kinks, the 34th Street Partnership is proud to present what Mr. Biederman calls “a quality deluxe manual restroom experience.”

The wisdom of the partnership’s decision has already been ratified by the public. Use has jumped more than fivefold since the toilets fully reopened in October, Mr. Biederman said.

Looking back, Mr. Biederman said in an expansive interview, the partnership could have had more faith in its ability to deliver without resorting to robots. Its sister organization, the Bryant Park Corporation, of which Mr. Biederman is also president, operates the flower-filled, manually maintained temples of toilethood ranked “best truly public restroom anywhere” by no less an authority than Restroomratings.com.

But the partnership did not think it would be possible to replicate the high-end Bryant experience in the much smaller Herald and Greeley facilities, and A.P.T.’s, despite their initial $500,000 price tag, seemed as if they would be cheaper to operate.

Between maintenance contracts, supplies and repairs, though, they ended up costing about $100,000 a year, which by 2007 was offset by only about $3,500 in user revenue. The new manual toilets, Mr. Biederman said, cost no more to maintain than the automated ones — and that’s with human attendants making as much as $12.70 an hour, though they start at $8.50.

The new bathrooms are nonautomated only in the sense of who cleans them. They are, in fact, plenty space-age for most people’s purposes. Push a button and the door locks. Put a hand in front of a sensor, and a fresh length of plastic covering whips itself around the seat (LED counters tell the attendant how many servings are left). The toilet flushes automatically; the sink is sensor-operated. When finished, patrons insert their hands, perhaps with some trepidation, into a Dyson Airblade dryer, which looks like a sleek plastic pillory and calls itself “the only hand dryer that literally scrapes water from hands.”

But where the floors of the old restrooms had a tank-tread-like surface that automatically rotated across a scrubbing system after each use, and the toilets themselves were cleaned by a rim-mounted, U-shaped traveling brush, the new ones are inspected, mopped and scrubbed — 15 to 25 times a day — by uniformed men and women.

“It’s an attendant who knows what’s going on and has functions that go from sanitation to exchanging a few words with you to generally having a sense of what should be done,” said Jerome Barth, the partnership’s vice president for operations. “People see them, and they know the bathrooms are clean.”



December 16th, 2009, 12:10 PM
Here's the question. Do you have to pay for them? People did not avoid them because they were automated, they avoided them because they could find a free one in the Barnes and Noble or McD's right around the corner.

March 9th, 2011, 11:31 AM
The city could have gave developers an incentive to build public bathrooms in the bases of their new buildings -- let them maintain them. I understand how valuable ground level retail is, but if the incentive was great enough...

March 10th, 2011, 07:56 AM

How does it cost $52K to maintain ONE toliet?

Not counting parts, that is like having one full time employee on it!

Also, if these things DO have a lot of moving parts, maybe they should have a stock of the replacement parts needed that they could use immediately and order a replacement OF the replacement part rather than waiting several weeks for it?

Oh, I'm sorry. That would make sense. We all know how offices just wait until the printers run out of toner, or the copy machine runs out of paper before they order more..... :p

March 11th, 2011, 04:39 PM
The city could have gave developers an incentive to build public bathrooms in the bases of their new buildings -- let them maintain them. I understand how valuable ground level retail is, but if the incentive was great enough...

Yes, just like the building owners who maintain the escalators *SO WELL* that they agreed to do when they got bonuses in zoning.

June 12th, 2012, 06:12 PM
I'm hating all this post 9/11 clutter taking over the streets. All the cones, fences and barricades are real eyesores. If they're going to have to keep spaces fenced off, design a reasonable permanent solution.

There should be a streetscape commission, since it seems NYPD is intent on making Lower Manhattan a military zone.

This only adds to our usual mess of a streetscape of haphazard street construction, overflowing trashcans, scaffolding, and gum-marked sidewalks.

February 7th, 2014, 01:39 PM
wavz13 (http://www.flickr.com/photos/wavz13/12312275896/sizes/h/in/pool-63919873@N00/)
Those art-deco lampposts are fantastic. Imagine them running down an avenue.
Also, the metal work seems very similar to the High Line.

February 7th, 2014, 02:22 PM
Similar to the Triboro lamp posts (http://forgotten-ny.com/2009/05/triboro-bridge-lampposts/), and influenced Hudson River Park.