Futuristic automatic pay toilet coming to Downtown Brooklyn

October 16, 2013 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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A “cutting-edge” automatic public toilet (APT) is coming to Downtown Brooklyn.

The box-shaped automatic john, to be installed on Tillary Street outside of Cadman Plaza Park, will cost 25 cents for a 15-minute session. The metallic unit is produced by Cemusa, the same company that sells advertisements on New York City’s bus stands and news kiosks.

Inside, the toilet is metallic and seatless. (Warning: Users are allowed just three 16-inch strips of toilet paper.) The sink dispenses soapy water automatically, and panic buttons are installed next to the door, which alert the company in case of an emergency.

After 12 minutes of use, an alarm goes off and lights flash for three minutes before the door opens. After the user leaves, the unit automatically power-washes and dries itself for 90 seconds, and is ready to use again. (Sensors in the floor can tell when the APT is empty.)

The public is invited to a Community Board 2 subcommittee meeting at the Brooklyn Hospital Center at 6 p.m. on October 21 to hear about the APT from Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Kevin Forma, with the Division of Franchises, Concessions & Consents, and Christopher Hrones, the Downtown Brooklyn transportation coordinator.

According to the city, the “state-of-the-art facilities offer comfort, hygiene, accessibility, and security to the public.” But while the units are state-of-the-art, they are by no means green: each use requires 14 gallons of water to flush and clean, according to the New York Times. (A normal toilet uses from one to two gallons of water to flush.)

While automatic pay toilets are said to be popular in Europe, U.S. cities have met with mixed results. New York City’s pay toilet plans have been stalled over the past dozen years for various reasons, including landmark questions and the need to make all the units handicapped accessible.

Seattle removed their five automatic pay toilets in 2008 after they were overrun and befouled by drug users and prostitutes. To avoid problems like this, New York City’s APTs will be placed in carefully chosen locations and will be inspected twice a day.

In July 2005, DOT chose Cemusa, a Spanish street furniture company, to design, manufacture, install and maintain the “street furniture” – which includes bus stops, news stands, bike parking and the toilets — at no cost to the city. In exchange, Cemusa sells advertising space on the structures. Cemusa partnered with Grimshaw Architects to create the 6′7″ x 12′ boxes.

Eventually Cemusa will install 20 APTs, with four in Brooklyn. So far there is one facility in Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn, one in Madison Square Park in Manhattan and another at Corona Plaza in Queens. Toilets can only be placed in areas that meet specific structural requirements, so land surveys must be taken.

The CB2 Parks and Recreation subcommittee meeting takes place on Monday, October 21, in Dining Rooms A&B (off of the cafeteria), at The Brooklyn Hospital Center, 121 DeKalb Avenue at St. Felix Street.

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