The public bathroom at Bryant Park was already known as one of the best in New York City – in fact, in 2002 it was voted best bathroom in the United States by Citysearch users. It was also certainly the most beautiful, located in a landmarked building and appointed with upscale amenities. But like everything the Bryant Park Corporation manages, the organization’s work is iterative and perfection-oriented, and yesterday, a new $300,000 redesign was unveiled. The bathroom, which sees between 1.2 and 1.3 million users a year, was immediately open for public use.

The design of the 310 square foot bathroom has always been a priority, particularly as the Bryant Park Restoration Corporation commenced the park’s renaissance in the 1980s, aiming to combat its reputation as dangerous and drug-infested. As the Bryant Park Corporation writes today, “By 1979, New York seemed to have given up Bryant Park for lost as an urban amenity, as well as an historic site.”

As Bryant Park executive director Dan Biederman reminded the cozy audience of press, donors, Bryant Park staff, board members and passerbys who joined the ribbon cutting ceremony, “We needed the ability to have a good bathroom experience [or] women would never trust the park.” They are the reason for the flowers, he said.  The initial design, and today’s, responds directly to what people said they hated about public bathrooms.

Yesterday’s “toilet paper” ribbon cutting ceremony

The multi-year project was led by in-house designers Vice President Ignacio Ciocchini, who was behind the previous iteration of the bathrooms as well, and Senior Urban Designer Alexandra Gonzalez. In addition to a gorgeous new aesthetic, the new bathrooms are rooted in sustainable design, featuring energy-saving LED lighting, all-weather temperature controls, and eco-powered technology, that includes micro turbines in the toilets and sinks that create electricity for the automated sensors. TOTO USA, the American arm of the Japanese company which is the world’s largest supplier of bathroom fixtures, provided the products, including the toilets (with automated hands free sanitary wrap around the seats by Brill), the quiet eco hand driers, sinks, and more.

Bryant Park Corporation Vice President Ignacio Ciocchini and Senior Urban Designer Alexandra Gonzalez, a graduate of Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation

Design-wise, Gonzalez tells us that the aim was to make sure the bathroom still “feels like it belonged in Bryant Park. The materials are commercial grade and selected to last, but “maintain the aesthetic of the park.” The color palette are derived from elements found in the park, like the patterning on a grove of London plane trees near the bathroom. Ciocchini described the continuation of the bluestone flooring from outside the bathroom to the inside, with a new modern interpretation. The result is a comfortable and sleek experience from the very entrance, where an urn of flowers greets you, the full length mirror, the classical music playing over the speakers, the framed paintings made by the park’s painter in residence in plein air, to the crown moldings on the ceiling of the bathroom.

Much thought was also given to the maintenance of the bathroom and the comfort of not only the users, but also the attendants that man the bathroom from the inside during all open hours. The ventilation work required careful management of the roof of the landmarked building, with the approval of the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission. The TOTO hand driers were selected for the reduced noise. Larger tiles were installed to limit the use of grout for easier cleaning and upkeep.

In 2020, the Greeley Square public restroom received a similar upgrade. Check out photos here!

Next, read about the Top 10 Secrets of Bryant Park.