Yes, it’s true, a bathroom in Greeley Square is in the running for “America’s Best Restroom.” In fact, this year, New York City has the honor of having two bathrooms in the final round of the Cintas competition: the one in Greeley Square just next to Herald Square and one at the JFK AirTrain station. Last year, a bathroom at LaGuardia Airport was one of the finalists. (It lost out to the Nashville Zoo in the end).
The Greeley Square bathroom is located in the park just off 6th Avenue and 32nd Street. It’s situated just behind the statue of Horace Greeley, the founder and editor the New-York Tribune. He is credited with the quote, “Go west young man, and grow up with the country,” which you can find lately on the pages of the U.S. passport. The hexagonal kiosk has a glass overhang, translucent glass ceiling and glass doors, offering a view into the Italian mosaic-tiled bathroom.
As fas as public restrooms go, the Greeley Square bathroom is a classy affair. Next to the sink, above the hand dryers are freshly cut flowers, accompanying the classical music playing over the speakers. A historic photo of Herald Square, showing the former Heralrd-Tribune headquarters (designed by Stanford White) and the elevated train line is incorporated on the wall. You’ll be at just the right temperature, because this little kiosk even has air conditioning and heat. The toilets self-flush and have automated seat-covers that change after each use. Already a handsome bathroom before, the latest renovation took place over a year and half from 2018 to 2019. The tiling was salvaged from the ceiling of the last bathroom.
There has been a movement towards more design-oriented public bathrooms in New York City in recent years. The Bryant Park bathrooms, located in a landmarked pavilion, were once the premiere public restrooms in the city (it also got a $300,000 upgrade in 2017). Built into the design is how to make the bathrooms graffiti proof, vandal proof, and easy to clean — without appearing utilitarian. According to the 34th Street Partnership, the Business Improvement District that manages the Greeley Square and Herald Square bathrooms, the bathroom has “vandal-proof toilets and fixtures, and walls and doors specially treated to be resistant to graffiti and surface damage.” They also add that the new design offers “much more durable materials, allows in more natural light, and includes robust plumbing, electrical and ventilation features that can withstand the Northeast’s brutal winters.” The exterior of the bathroom was replaced in stainless steel while retaining the same look as before.
The recent renovation, which cost $600,000, doubled the stalls from two to four and created a new foundation that contains the water and electricity components of the bathroom. The previous bathroom was a pay-per-use toilet, more similar to what can be found in Paris. It was actually one of the city’s first automated pay toilets but the 34th Street Partnership discovered that it was “expensive to operate, to maintain, it broke down frequently and parts were hard to get.” Like the Bryant Park bathroom, the Greeley Square bathroom, which reopened in February 2020, has a full-time attendant. But as a result of COVID, the bathroom has been temporarily closed these last months. The accompanying newsstand, across from the toilets, was converted into a concession stand which is now home to Tacumi Taco.
Another bathroom in the running for “America’s Best Restroom” is the JFK AirTrain bathroom, which we will feature tomorrow! Vote for America’s Best Restroom here!
Next, check out the 11 most fascinating bathrooms in NYC. All photos in this piece by Jane Kratchovil courtesy 34th Street Partnership.