When I have to pee, I either make a b-line for the toilet or I look at all the fat butts of the women in line ahead of me to distract myself from my throbbing bladder. I don’t usually spend time looking at or examining bathrooms, especially public ones, but learning how important “comfort stations” were to Robert Moses and his keen eye for architecture, I thought I would give the public bathrooms of my most frequented parks an examining eye, without the distraction of a full bladder.
Most of the big New York City parks have public bathrooms, and I realized that I haven’t even noticed the bathrooms at some of my favorite parks: Tompkins Square, East River, Washington Square, and Union Square. I was surprised to find that though they still showed signs of heavy use they were surprisingly clean, well heated, and were architecturally really beautiful. Walking around taking pictures of bathrooms got me some funny looks, but that only made me realize how seldom people pay attention to the bathrooms they pass by or use every day.
Bathroom talk made big news in 2006 when Bryant Park re-opened its bathroom after extensive 200,000 dollar renovations. Fully equipped with a copper vase for fresh flowers, mosaic walls, marble flown in from India, crown molding, and a full time attendant, it is definitely the nicest public bathroom in NYC. The bathroom was paid for by the Brayant Park restoration cooperation, not by New York City Parks and recreation.
In an article about the Bryant Park bathroom in The New York Times Mr. Benepe the Parks commissioner said ” ‘We’re making a concerted effort to make sure park comfort stations are open, decent and clean,’ he said. ‘You know, we have an informal motto — we actually say this in our meetings — it’s our business to help New Yorkers do theirs.’”
The Central Park conservancy has also spent a large amount of money over the years keeping its bathrooms clean and elegant.
Next time you gotta go, don’t shy away from the NYC public bathrooms, take time to look at the exterior. And pay attention to the details, like mosaics or crown molding even if it’s actually molding.