When I read that the public restrooms in Bryant Park were voted “Best in the Nation” in 2002 by CitySearch, I was intrigued. How nice could they really be, just blocks from the tourist traffic and former sleaze of Times Square?
In fact, the restrooms, housed in a grand stone building just off Forty-second Street, right behind the library, offer a multi-sensory experience fit for all but the most discerning of public-bathroom-goers. The queue was miraculously short for a seventy-degree summer day at the height of tourist season. A marble urn of fresh flowers, backed by a wood-framed full-length mirror and floral wall mosaics, greeted visitors in the foyer separating the men’s and women’s rooms. The signs depict the usual stick-figure man and woman, but bearing leaves at the end of outstretched arms to point the way.
Inside the women’s room is a marble changing-table and a marble sink, graced with yet more floral arrangements in bud vases. The stalls are dark polished wood. Natural light filters through an oval window. A discreet air-freshener box high on the wall emitted a clean smell, though the green-and-white tile floor was spotless, and a decidedly non-grimy white terry-cloth towel was folded by the sink to wipe up water spots.
Upon entering the stall, a floral-printed sign instructed me to push a red button for a new Hygolet toilet-seat cover. I pushed, and a scrim of plastic snaked around the perimeter of the seat, pushing the used portion into a receptacle at the other end. The toilet paper was unexceptional, but soft enough.
I was delighted to discover that the soap dispensers offered a plump pouf of white mousse—my favorite kind of dispenser soap. And to top it off, the air-dryers (no soggy paper towels here) are the gleaming chrome Xlerator brand, issuing a hand-free blast of hot air that dries the hands in seconds.
Exiting the restrooms, I noticed two janitorial workers chatting by a patch of pacasandra. Even their uniforms were a delight: leaf-green pants and a contrasting polo shirt, tucked in, with bright blue rubber gloves.