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NYC street furniture update
May 18, 2006 3:09 PM   Subscribe


 


I doubt a newsstand would ever be this clean, but I can't get over how much better it looks than the stuff on NYC streets today.
posted by mathowie at 3:09 PM on May 18, 2006


God, I so hope this comes to pass. It's frickin' unbelievable that this town can't get its act together to provide public toilets. We had them, briefly, in 1996 for the Democratic Convention, but then they disappeared amidst all the politicking that predates it. More on that endless saga here. (NYT link)
posted by mkultra at 3:18 PM on May 18, 2006


I've never been to NYC, but man, that looks sterile. Then again, that may be the point.
posted by Eekacat at 3:18 PM on May 18, 2006


Interesting that the city of New York could not find US suppliers. Perhaps Europe was chosen in order to avoid the silly low-flow toilets mandated for US plumbing firms?
posted by Cranberry at 3:19 PM on May 18, 2006


Yeah, they look great, but they don't exactly say "New York" to me. They look very European.
posted by keswick at 3:20 PM on May 18, 2006


Does anywhere in the US have public toilets? Not counting porta-johns at festivals, I haven't seen one since I was a kid.
posted by octothorpe at 3:20 PM on May 18, 2006


The frosted glass and brushed aluminum make me think of breath mints. I'm all for public toilets, though these look like they were lifted from prison (not that it matters at 2am with a bladder filled to the brim).
posted by minkll at 3:23 PM on May 18, 2006


The bus stops look pretty much identical to the newsstands. If you picked the wrong one you'd have a LONG wait for the bus, but at least you'd have somethign to read.
posted by gurple at 3:35 PM on May 18, 2006


Needs more rats.
posted by mazola at 3:36 PM on May 18, 2006


A week of pigeon shit and fly posters will make these things look right at home, I'm sure.
posted by nowonmai at 3:36 PM on May 18, 2006


The bus stops look pretty much identical to the newsstands. If you picked the wrong one you'd have a LONG wait for the bus, but at least you'd have somethign to read.

If you screw this up, NYC is probably going to kick your ass anyway. Confusing a newsstand for a bus stop is the least of your worries.
posted by Mikey-San at 3:40 PM on May 18, 2006


lack of public toilets is one of the least civilized things about U.S., IMO. sucks that people have to duck into mcdonalds/bars just to take a piss.
posted by jcruelty at 3:41 PM on May 18, 2006


What's interesting to me is that in this "billion dollar deal" New York City gets the billion dollars. They are being paid over a billion dollars over 20 years by the furniture company for the right to put advertisements on the furniture.

Sounds like a smart financial deal for the city. They get toilets, bus benches, newsstands, and a billion dollars. Of course I occasionally get a weird and unpleasant feeling when I think about the fact that I am being advertised at every single second of my life, but hey I don't live in NYC. Not that it's any better here.
posted by jlub at 3:44 PM on May 18, 2006


The bus stops look pretty much identical to the newsstands. If you picked the wrong one you'd have a LONG wait for the bus, but at least you'd have somethign to read.

I think the much bigger problem will be the people confusing the bus stop with the public toilet.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 3:45 PM on May 18, 2006


What's wrong with the current newsstands and bus shelters, again? I get the Times at one and stand beneath the other every morning and they seem to work just fine. How does making NYC look like a toothpaste commercial help?

Also, I thought the reason there weren't public outdoor toilets was beause Americans with Disabilities Act compliance would have meant installing special handicapped johns wider than most sidewalks staffed with 24-hour trained attendants. Did this issue go away somehow?
posted by ChasFile at 3:45 PM on May 18, 2006


I would like to see a retromod look, but we need public toilets here so badly that I'd take just about anything.

Also: (Most of) NYC is no longer a dirty, rat infested shithole. Hasn't been for some time, folks.
posted by kosem at 3:49 PM on May 18, 2006


I'm pretty sure the US doesn't have public outdoor toilets because people would shit in the urinal, sink, floor or maybe the ceiling, then piss all over the place. We're like goddamn monkeys or something.
posted by puke & cry at 3:49 PM on May 18, 2006 [1 favorite]


Does anywhere in the US have public toilets?



Boston has these "high-tech" toilets throughout the city.
posted by ericb at 3:50 PM on May 18, 2006


Does anywhere in the US have public toilets? Not counting porta-johns at festivals, I haven't seen one since I was a kid.
posted by octothorpe at 3:20 PM PST on May 18


We have them in San Francisco and they are handicap-access. (also you can see kiosks in those pictures made by the same company)
posted by vacapinta at 3:51 PM on May 18, 2006


Bland bland bland.
posted by fleacircus at 3:52 PM on May 18, 2006


Does anywhere in the US have public toilets?

Seattle does, installed in 2004 or 2005. They're free, to boot.
posted by mhum at 3:52 PM on May 18, 2006


Octothorpe, there are a few public toilets around San Francisco. I think it was a similar deal, in which the manufacturer paid the city for the right to install them, then they get revenue from selling ad space on the toilets and on some matching kiosks and newspaper stands.

On preview, Seattle beats us pants down - ours cost 25 cents to use!
posted by Quietgal at 3:54 PM on May 18, 2006


I'll be walking around Manhattan and have to pee, so I stop by Starbucks and there's 39 people already in line for the bathroom. So I walk down by City Hall and go inside JR Electronics and there's only 12 people ahead of me. "Phew," I think, "not bad at all."
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 3:55 PM on May 18, 2006


Also, New York is a dirty city that barely keeps its shit together on a daily basis. That's why I love it. You want prefab, sanitized, soul-less homogenization? Move to fucking Florida or California or something.

lack of public toilets is one of the least civilized things about U.S., IMO. sucks that people have to duck into mcdonalds/bars just to take a piss.

Or shoot up or pass out or service a john. Man, I can't wait for public toilets. Get that shit back on the streets!

I'm kidding, of course. Some of my best friends are homeless junkie hookers (well, maybe not best friends, but obvioulsy the best way to stay safe in the city is to be on good terms with the local riff-raff). And let's face it, everyone uses the sidewalk as a restroom anyway, so who are we fooling; just install some toilets and be done with it. Its not like they're the real problem anyway. By FAR the biggest disrespecters of New York's streets are dog owners. Let's legislate those assholes.
posted by ChasFile at 3:56 PM on May 18, 2006


They're free, to boot.

What if you just want to pee?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 4:00 PM on May 18, 2006


What's wrong with the current newsstands and bus shelters, again?

I dunno, there's nothing really wrong with it per se, it just looks sorta Sesame Street 1972. NYC is the world's greatest city and think it could do with a bit of an upgrade to something more cosmopolitan.
posted by mathowie at 4:02 PM on May 18, 2006


Hmm. I guess that I should have googled before I spoke, it looks like there is (or was) one on Pittsburgh's Southside for three years, not too far from where I'm typing this. Show's how often I get out.
posted by octothorpe at 4:03 PM on May 18, 2006


Armitage Shanks: !!!

I totally agree. Free to pee. Pay to boot. A lot.
posted by kosem at 4:04 PM on May 18, 2006


I don't know if I'm that into public toilets. Sure, they're convenient, but they often charge money. There are no public toilets in Toronto, and so I feel completely justified into going into restaurants and cafes and asking to use their toilet. And for that reason, I always let people use the washrooms in the coffee shop I worked in. Only once was I told I had to buy something - and in that case I had been planning to buy a coffee, but I so offended at being told that I had to that I went to the toilet, and then came out and said I was going across the street to get a coffee.
posted by jb at 4:05 PM on May 18, 2006


That said, Paris has some free automatic toilets. They are a little scary (tiny, hard to turn around in, no seat), but did save me in an emergency.
posted by jb at 4:06 PM on May 18, 2006


Perfect for NYC. And very much like Glasgow, which seems to have a fetish for building everything out of stainless steel, glass and um, titanium.
posted by brautigan at 4:13 PM on May 18, 2006


Also: (Most of) NYC is no longer a dirty, rat infested shithole. Hasn't been for some time, folks.

Well it's still rat-infested, definitely a lot cleaner, and not a shithole. But 1.5 outta 3 ain't bad
posted by cell divide at 4:18 PM on May 18, 2006


You want prefab, sanitized, soul-less homogenization? Move to fucking Florida or California or something.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say you've never set foot in Los Angeles, am I right?
posted by quite unimportant at 4:24 PM on May 18, 2006




My coffee table looks just like these. It's a bitch to keep clean. Should be interesting to see how they look after a few days outside. (Or maybe that billion dollars is for NY to hire people to go around and clean them perpetually?)
posted by carmen at 4:43 PM on May 18, 2006


What's wrong with the current newsstands and bus shelters, again? I get the Times at one and stand beneath the other every morning and they seem to work just fine. How does making NYC look like a toothpaste commercial help?

Your impression of the design aside, it helps by bringing in a billion dollars to the city of NY.

It's called municipal marketing, and it's a growing trend for cities and local governments looking to either 1) expand services without raising taxes or 2) maintain services and lower taxes.

This a pretty good example of it working well.
posted by tallthinone at 5:03 PM on May 18, 2006


Dissenting views:

Though 20 toilets wouldn't serve the needs of a late-August Mets game, the dailies all but wept with joy at the news. An excited Newsday reported, "Deal Close on Public Toilets." The Times declared, "City Finally Proclaims Deal for Public Toilets." The Post's Stephanie Gaskell, whose been holding it in for years, described the deal under the headline, "It's A Go: City Gets 20 Public Toilets." ...

As the press has since come to realize, the Street Furniture Initiative (SFI) is not aimed at alleviating the burden on Starbucks restrooms in Midtown. Nor is it a public health response to the presence of urine in the streets. It is a sweeping plan to refashion every freestanding structure on New York City's sidewalks according to a standardized, corporate model. It calls for the erection of 3,300 new bubble-top bus stops, as well as hundreds of slimmer, ultramodern newsstands, info kiosks and multi-rack newspaper boxes. (And 20 toilets, mostly around major transit hubs.) In the mayor's words, SFI will "dramatically alter the city's streetscape…[and] transform the look and feel of its streets."

It all sounds very nice. But there's a catch.

A private contractor will build and maintain the new structures, which will be smothered in advertising. Every piece of furniture will be designed and positioned for the purpose of transmitting as many ad messages to as many people as possible. Some of the revenue generated will go to the maintenance of the furniture; most of it will leave the city as private profit. ...

[T]he New York City Newsstand Association challenged the city over Local Law 64, an SFI-related bill that allowed the city to demolish 290 privately owned newsstands. Since issuing the SFI contract requires a clean sidewalk slate, and since current law forbade the city from wresting ownership of newsstands from its current owners, the law was amended. The newsstand owners fought back and have succeeded in delaying the city from issuing SFI a contract until June 15. City Council has agreed to revisit the fate of the newsstands during its April 4 session.

"What's at stake is the livelihood of dozens of newsstand operators and a variety of constitutional issues," says Robert S. Bookman, private counsel to the Association. "This is an unconstitutional taking of private property. We have plaintiffs that just built a new newsstand for $25,000. The City has offered nothing in return."

"The physical stands are worth a lot," explains Andrew Celli, who is representing the Association in court. "They cost between $20,000 and $30,000 to build. The city wants to bulldoze them and bring in Mega Corp. stands. Then the city will say, 'You're allowed to work in these as a serf, but you don't own the stand anymore. You can't sell it or transfer it to your children.' The equity that people invested in is worth something."

posted by Artifice_Eternity at 5:41 PM on May 18, 2006


A friend of mine runs publictoilets.org, a directory of public facilities in Holland.
posted by mrbill at 5:42 PM on May 18, 2006


I totally agree. Free to pee. Pay to boot. A lot.

How would you propose to enforce this for the females? Not let them out of the toilet til they pay if they drop the kids off at the pool, or what?
posted by beth at 5:49 PM on May 18, 2006


Wake me up at some point during YDAU. I should like to watch Mr. Bouncity Bounce.
posted by Fezboy! at 5:57 PM on May 18, 2006


beth: I meant, and I believe Armitage Shanks meant "boot" as in slang for vomit.
posted by kosem at 6:02 PM on May 18, 2006


Another US city with public toilets: San Jose CA, at least in downtown. They look just like the ones in San Francisco. (Incidentally, SJ has more people than SF.)
posted by Potsy at 6:25 PM on May 18, 2006


I doubt a newsstand would ever be this clean, but I can't get over how much better it looks than the stuff on NYC streets today.

Meh. If the stuff on NYC streets looked any different, it wouldn't be NYC.

New York is not Helsinki, nor should it aspire to be. I predict real New Yorkers will hate it.

That is all.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:29 PM on May 18, 2006


They're nice, if unexciting. Let's see how intent the city is on keeping them clean. And, XQUZYPHYR, confusing shelters with toilets has happened before (NSFW).

Now here are some truly creative shelter designs.
posted by rob511 at 6:39 PM on May 18, 2006


I dunno, they look bland as hell to me. The person upthread who mentioned coffee tables was dead on.

Then the city will say, 'You're allowed to work in these as a serf, but you don't own the stand anymore. You can't sell it or transfer it to your children

This is not good.
posted by jamesonandwater at 6:47 PM on May 18, 2006


jamesonandwater: but it's sexy eurodesign! who cares about the reality beneath the shiny surface!

mefi: home of the skindeep leftie
posted by keswick at 7:10 PM on May 18, 2006


I predict real New Yorkers will hate it.

Well, duh. We hate everything.
posted by fungible at 7:29 PM on May 18, 2006


The bus stop shelters don't look particularly sheltering. I've always liked the bus shelters in Canberra as the ultimate example in function-over-form bus stop (scroll down to see the picture).
posted by Ritchie at 7:42 PM on May 18, 2006


kosem, beth, Armitage Shanks: I thought you guys meant "boot" as in intravenous injection of illegal drugs, à la Heroin..
posted by exlotuseater at 7:57 PM on May 18, 2006


A friend of mine runs publictoilets.org

Is this an attempt to combat the popular Dutch street sport of Wild Pissing?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:29 PM on May 18, 2006


What if you just want to pee?

Before we go any further, I think that Armitage Shanks should be declaring a pecuniary interest in this thread.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:34 PM on May 18, 2006


It's hard to get a good gauge on how these will be. Can someone photoshop some graffiti on them and then add a bunch of trash bags sitting up next to them?
posted by my sock puppet account at 9:33 PM on May 18, 2006


Newstands??
If it was up to Bloomberg we wouldn't have anymore newspapers to sell from the stands.
Or magazines.
Or cigarettes.
Or soda.

But maybe, just maybe....they could sell bottles of water.
Or bran muffins.
While playing WBBR radio 24/7/365.
posted by flatlander at 10:23 PM on May 18, 2006


So, that's like four toilets per borough?
posted by ryanrs at 11:04 PM on May 18, 2006


Public Toilet 2.0
posted by Joeforking at 11:14 PM on May 18, 2006


I'd love to see what one of these newsstands looks like when an actual newsstand vendor gets ahold of it. Their goal is to jam as much stuff as possible in their little amount of space and clean lines and euro-design doesn't mesh with that at all.

Plus those nice white panels on the rendering are a joke considering they'll be plastered with ads in reality.
posted by smackfu at 11:41 PM on May 18, 2006


New York is in the future!
posted by frecklefaerie at 12:28 AM on May 19, 2006


At no charge to the City, Cemusa will provide approximately 3,300 new bus stop shelters, 330 new newsstands and up to 20 automatic public toilets.

This would have made a lot more sense if it was 3,300 new automatic public toilets, 330 new bus stop shelters, and screw the newsstands. There ought to be an average of at least one free toilet on every block of the city. As the population gets older, bladders get weaker.
posted by pracowity at 1:03 AM on May 19, 2006


Judging from the designs, I much prefer San Francisco's public toilets, and the general design idea.

Really, I think NYC would've been served better by something more traditional. Lighter colors with modern design can and will look ugly and trashy much sooner than something in darker colors.

Besides, I'm a tourist to NYC, and I *WANT* to see magazine stands that, at minimum, look traditional... and frankly, I don't mind them being a bit disorderly, as it's a distinctly New York kind of thing.

In other words, I want an authentic NYC experience, and this generic design style doesn't feel authentic at all.
posted by insomnia_lj at 1:32 AM on May 19, 2006


I noticed some of the shelters seem to have opaque sides, making it impossible for you to see if your bus is coming, and also making them more attractive for people to piss in, bother people in, etc.

TTC shelters in Toronto are good - good protection from rain and some protection from the worst of the cold, but with glass sides so they are bright inside and you can see the bus coming. They fit in their advertisemnt on the opposite side from the direction of traffic.
posted by jb at 6:43 AM on May 19, 2006


Toronto has been replacing their bus shelters for the past couple years, as jb has said, but now they're looking to replace all their street furniture. Here are some related posts from Spacing.

There is actually a public toilet at Dundas square, though it's right beside the Eaton Centre so it makes little difference to most people. Then there are the seasonal ones in parks (the ones in the Beaches are open) and I think a couple ones hidden here and there around town I've heard of, but maybe people are just talking about community centre-affiliated ones.

Some of the stuff that's been going up lately in Toronto, like the "ad-supported" info pillars, isn't great. The pillars themselves claim to offer maps for tourists, but in some cases they don't even show your current location on them (like the one by the new park at Queen & Kingston Rd) and they don't dispense paper maps like they're supposed to. Also, given that some are almost 20' high the little overhang at the top does nothing to shelter the user. Lastly, they're oriented, like those stupid megabins, such that cars can see the ads which can make them inconvenient to use. They're basically ads with "uses" tacked on after the fact.
posted by maledictory at 9:05 AM on May 19, 2006



I'm pretty sure the US doesn't have public outdoor toilets because people would shit in the urinal, sink, floor or maybe the ceiling, then piss all over the place. We're like goddamn monkeys or something.


Which is exactly why I'm not going to use them if they're built in NY.

Anyone who's ever ducked into a Yankee Stadium bathroom after the first inning of a game knows New Yorkers have a bad track record with this sort of thing.
posted by Alexandros at 9:47 AM on May 19, 2006


In 20 years, these will look like the future of the past. Think EPCOT.
posted by rusty at 10:30 AM on May 19, 2006


Toronto has been replacing their bus shelters for the past couple years, as jb has said, but now they're looking to replace all their street furniture. Here are some related posts from Spacing.

I actually moved out about 4 years ago, so I was thinking of the older bus shelters. Have things changed since then? I liked TTC shelters - god knows I spent enough time in the (anywhere from 10min to an hour or more a day).

I'm pretty sure the US doesn't have public outdoor toilets because people would shit in the urinal, sink, floor or maybe the ceiling, then piss all over the place. We're like goddamn monkeys or something.

The free public toilets in Paris clean themselves as soon as you leave them after using. Which means they are all slightly damp inside, but clean. But you mustn't let children go in alone - they could get stuck and then who knows what.
posted by jb at 4:08 AM on May 20, 2006


I believe the proposed NYC toilets are self-cleaning as well.
posted by mkultra at 8:32 AM on May 21, 2006


The Vandalism of Tomorrow - TODAY!!!
posted by Marnie at 11:06 AM on May 21, 2006


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