NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – It can be challenging to find a public restroom in the city.
As CBS2’s Lisa Rozner reports, there is a plan to make that easier, but it seems to be on a 10-year bathroom break.
The automated public toilet in Madison Square Park is one of five in all of New York City. But Rozner found, for the second time in a week, it wasn’t even working Friday.
“I couldn’t find the button to close the door, so I couldn’t even use it,” Brooklyn resident Luisa Liranzo said.
But people desperate to go used it anyway.
“Well, when you gotta go, you gotta go,” said Julia, a tourist from Texas.
The other four are located at West 175th Street and Wadsworth Avenue in Manhattan, National Street and Roosevelt Avenue in Queens, Flatbush Avenue and Grand Army Plaza and Third Avenue and Fordham Plaza in Brooklyn.
In 2008, the Bloomberg administration unveiled a plan for the self-cleaning restrooms, which cost 25 cents to use. But a decade later, 15 sit in a Maspeth, Queens warehouse.
Eight million New Yorkers, 62 million tourists and just a handful of public toilets are out there.
“There is no single powerful interest that wants it done,” Doug Lasdon, executive director of the Urban Justice Center, told Rozner. “It’s not just the homeless. It’s pregnant women, it’s taxi drivers, bus drivers. It’s all of us. We’ve all had a bathroom emergency.”
Taking care of business is actually not a business in New York City. JCDecaux covers the $150,000 cost of the toilets. So some are asking: Why can’t the city just install all of them?
“Unfortunately, finding the right places and the right infrastructure to put in the public toilets also has its challenges. But we pledge to pick up the pace,” said Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.
A DOT spokesperson added, “We have planned APTs for several other locations including the Williamsburg Bridge bus depot, nearby Valentino Park and Pier in Red Hook, and the Municipal Plaza in lower Manhattan.”
Experts say most major cities have hundreds.
“New York does very poorly compared to for example San Francisco or Portland – New York is certainly not a leader its backward,” said Harvey Molotch, a professor of sociology at NYU and the author of “Public Restrooms and the Politics of Sharing.”
He said the city should focus on building public bathrooms within new construction projects.
“That’s a way for the city to leverage forward – in order to get approval or a significant project you must provide public access to facilities,” he said.
“Maybe this explains why there’s so much urine on the street that I’ve seen here,” said Zander Sharp, a tourist from London.
So if you’re on the hunt for a place to go, good luck.