Visitors to Downtown can stop pretending they have jury duty in order to use the courthouse bathrooms — provided they have a quarter.
A high-tech, self-cleaning public toilet that costs 25 cents to use may be coming to Tillary Street near Cadman Plaza, but small-bladdered strollers cannot rejoice just yet because the plan has one more bureaucratic hurdle to clear.
“I think they’re coming,” said Robert Perris, the district manager for Community Board 2, which deals with Downtown.
The board’s executive committee voted in favor of the potty plan Monday and contractors are on board, meaning that the only thing standing between the neighborhood and a space-age urination station is the city’s public design commission.
From the outside, the loo looks like a souped-up public telephone booth. Inside, it is metallic like an airplane lavatory, but with a jailhouse touch — there is no toilet seat. Users get three sheets of toilet paper, a sink, and 15 minutes to do their business before the bathroom door pops open. Fortunately for those performing private tasks that take a while, the computer sounds a three-minute warning buzzer before exposing the privy’s assets to the world.
Shoppers enjoying the Cadman Plaza farmers market on Thursday were enthusiastic at the prospect of communing with a communal commode on the commons and said that the quarter fee would not deter them from taking care of business.
“I think it should be free, but I understand charging for it,” said Mara Gittleman, a resident of Prospect Heights. “Either way, I think more public bathrooms, the better. There are only so many Starbucks that people can use.”
Some added that the time limit, which could be seen as a dystopian intrusion on humanity’s most primal private time, serves a purpose.
“I think it’s a good idea because some people might take up residence in there,” said David Olson, a resident of Park Slope.
The restroom hoses itself down for 90 seconds after every use, using as much as fourteen times the amount of water as a normal toilet flush.
Olson said he would only take advantage of the weird water closets in an emergency but that he sees the appeal.
“It’s sort of like an adventure ride, I guess,” Olson said. “All that technology.”
The Department of Transportation has been trying since 2005 to install 20 of the futuristic facilities around the city but has so far only managed to put up three, including one at Grand Army Plaza. Incredibly, the project has been on the city’s to-do list since a first self-cleaning toilet was installed as a test in City Hall Park in 1992.