Flush with success! City plans public toilet in Grand Army Plaza

A public toilet like this could soon provide relief in Grand Army Plaza.
Department of Transportation

Talk about filling the GAP!

The city is moving towards placing Brooklyn’s first official public toilet in Grand Army Plaza — finally bringing some relief to the heart (and other organs) of the borough.

The proposed 25-cent, self-cleaning toilet has some Park Slope residents cheering the notion that they might soon be communing with a commode near such attractions as the central branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, the Civil War memorial arch, Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Museum.

Of course, no one thinks the toilet will stand up to both poops and perps.

“I think it’s wonderful, but I don’t know how long it will last,” said Maria Grillo, a mother from Sunset Park. “People will trash it.”

Michael Keeler, who works in Park Slope, near the site of the proposed crapper, agreed that “the toilet will be filthy, unsightly and no one will clean it.”

The Department of Transportation strongly disagreed, citing the agency’s experience with its two existing public toilets in Queens and in Madison Square Park in Manhattan.

“They hold up well,” said Brooke McKenna, the assistant commissioner in charge of the “street furniture” program.

The reason, of course, is that the city has nothing to do with maintaining the units; that job falls to Cemusa, the Spanish company that has the franchise to install, operate and maintain the toilets.

“The great thing about the franchise deal with Cemusa is that they’re required to install and maintain them,” McKenna added. “They do an excellent job.”

The company pays for the units and their maintenance by selling advertising on them, and on bus shelters and newsstands that are also part of the street furniture franchise.

But toilets in and around public parks do not have advertising on them.

Eventually, McKenna said, there will be 20 pay toilets throughout the city — the culmination of an achingly public process that dates back to a single French-made, self-cleaning toilet installed as a test in City Hall Park in 1992.

The other Brooklyn site being considered for one of the 12-foot-by-seven-foot units is in Downtown’s Columbus Park, near the courthouses and Borough Hall. Unlike the Grand Army Plaza site, that site has not yet been scheduled for a community board hearing.

Community Board 9 is expected to approve of the Grand Army Plaza toilet, which would actually be installed about 20 feet south of the circle on Flatbush Avenue, opposite the library.

But the board is also expected to hear plenty of ire from flushed opponents.

“This program does tend to polarize,” McKenna admitted. “People take this topic very personally.”

After all, what is more personal than the business one does in private?

“As long as they keep it clean, I’m not against it,” said Joan Tobias, a Park Sloper who was walking her dog on Tuesday. “I’d be willing to pay even a one dollar fee, as long as it’s clean.”

In case her emphasis was not clear, she repeated it.

“If it’s kept clean, I’m OK with it,” she added.

— with Evan Gardner

Community Board 9 will discuss the putting a toilet in Grand Army Plaza at its next meeting, Tuesday, Feb. 24, 7 pm, at MS 61 [400 Empire Blvd. at Clove Road in Crown Heights, (718) 778-9279].

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