“The true cost of luxury is the choice that it affords.”
There is an embarrassment of opulence in New York. Where else can you find a $1,000 ice cream sundae and a $75,000 per night hotel room?
In case you were wondering, that’s at ‘Serendipity 3’ and ‘The Mark Hotel’ respectively but I digress…..
Amongst all the splendour that is Manhattan, you can still find a little bit of luxury for the princely sum of FREE…nada…zero…gratis! Its a public toilet (or “restroom” as our quaint American friends call it) in Bryant Park.
Bryant Park is a 9.6-acre oasis set among Manhattan skyscrapers, attracting crowds with its winter ice rink and holiday shops, summer movie nights, artisanal foodie fare and rustic lunch tables and chairs under plane trees.
The bathroom is one of a pair of compact buildings tucked behind the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue; the other has been converted into a park office and storage area. Designed as a public comfort station as part of the library, which opened in 1911, the bathroom was closed as the park descended into a blighted eyesore, overrun with drug dealers and criminals.
“At Bryant Park, we strive for perfection and only settle for excellence,” Dan Biederman, executive director of Bryant Park Corporation, said in a statement. “We have created a facility that rivals even some of the finest hotels.”
Before rebuilding the bathroom in the 1990s, Mr. Biederman said his inspiration was Brooke Astor, the Grande Dame of New York society. In 1979, Mrs. Astor, then 77 and a member of the library’s board of trustees, was on her way to the library when a “hooligan” approached and tried to sell her drugs. She complained to her friend David Rockefeller that the area needed to be cleaned up. Mr. Rockefeller helped secure the financial support to make it happen. “Mrs. Astor was in my mind,” said Mr. Biederman, who envisioned the bathroom as a powder room in a country estate. “Anybody from homeless people to Mrs. Astor could use it.”
The lavish public restroom has been there “forever” (actually 25 years) but it became even more lavish this April, after a $300,000 upgrade that was unveiled at a toilet tissue “ribbon” cutting ceremony.
Park managers convened focus groups. After women said they preferred not to touch anything, hands-free water-taps and driers and self-flushing toilets were introduced. Park managers also dispatched spies to luxury hotels and restaurants, including the St. Regis, the Waldorf Astoria, the Plaza and Morimoto restaurant, to check out the competition.
After crossing their legs for three months during the renovation, New Yorkers and tourists can revel in the luxurious Toto fixtures, a coffered ceiling, crown mouldings, and imported porcelain tiling. The walls are decorated with a selection from 225 original artworks painted by local artists.
Even before the renovations, the restroom already had a full-time attendant, bouquets of fresh flowers, and a classical music soundtrack. The parks department says the public loo received 1.2 million visitors last year, and could draw even more in 2017 with its decadent upgrade. No tax dollars were used because non-profit Bryant Park Corporation manages the park for New York City without municipal funding. Bryant Park Corporation “raises money via sponsorships, special events, operation of food concessions”.
The upkeep of the bathroom costs $271,000 annually, which includes $27,000 for 14,040 industrial-size rolls of single-ply toilet paper and $14,160 for flower deliveries. The bathroom attendants earn between $25,000 and $30,000 a year. The city-owned park is supported entirely through private revenue from a variety of sources, including corporate sponsorships.
All that affluent effluent luxury in only 315-square-feet of Beaux-Arts visage.
Self-flushing toilets lined with sanitary seat covers that rotate between uses, fresh bouquets of flowers, classical music, air-conditioning, and two attendants at all times who mop and shine until everything sparkles.
What attention to detail:
Expensive porcelain tiles were chosen instead of ceramic because they were more attractive and durable. Larger porcelain tiles were chosen so that less grouting area was required; grouting that could attract dirt. They even chose the toilets and electric hand dryers with the lowest noise output so as not to drown out the classical music
What a good place for a tinkle….that is true luxury!
Author’s Biography: Melvyn Teillol-Foo (MTF)
Dr Melvyn Teillol-Foo is a contributor on AlphaLuxe web-zine.
He is also a moderator on PuristSPro.com horology discussion fora. He blends his scientific medical objectivity from the pharmaceutical industry with purist passion, in his musings about watches, travel, wine, food and other epicurean delights.
His travelogue ‘Lazing’ and feasting ‘Grazing’ series of articles have now passed into “mythic legend” on the original ‘ThePuristS.com’ website. Those were the halcyon days when he was “rich and famous” that he remembers with bittersweet fondness.
Dr Teillol-Foo is a quoted enthusiast on the watch industry, appearing in feature articles and interviews by Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Sunday Times (London), Chronos (Japan), Citizen Hedonist (France) and other publications. He has authored articles for magazines like International Watch (iW) – both U.S. & Chinese editions, ICON (Singapore), August Man (Singapore), Comfort (China) and The Watch (Hong Kong).