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Thread: Street Furniture

  1. #1

    Default Street Furniture

    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

  2. #2

    Default City Finally Proclaims Deal for Public Toilets

    About time, but a lot more than 20 will be needed...

  3. #3

    Default City Finally Proclaims Deal for Public Toilets

  4. #4
    Forum Veteran
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    Jan 2002
    West Harlem

    Default City Finally Proclaims Deal for Public Toilets

    Looks a bit like an airport bathroom. Let's hope we can keep them clean.

  5. #5

    Default City Finally Proclaims Deal for Public Toilets

    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

  6. #6

    Default City Finally Proclaims Deal for Public Toilets

    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

  7. #7

    Default City Finally Proclaims Deal for Public Toilets

    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

  8. #8


    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

  9. #9
    Forum Veteran
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    Nov 2002
    New York City


    I thought that the guy in "Drôle de Temps" was almost drowned by the cleaning equipment in the Sanissette. "Almost," because he survived.

  10. #10


    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

  11. #11


    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

  12. #12


    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

  13. #13


    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.

  14. #14


    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

  15. #15
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    NYC - Downtown

    Default Toilets -- At Last!

    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

    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 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.

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