A pedestrian walks past a public, self-cleaning toilet in Madison Square Park. The self-washing, wheelchair-accessible toilets cost 25 cents for 15 minutes before the toilet doors automatically open and a 60-second cleaning cycle begins after each use
In New York City, when you gotta go, you also gotta know where to go.
There are fewer than 1,200 public bathrooms for the city’s 8.4 million residents and millions of tourists, according to the non-profit Urban Design Forum. This bathroom deficit was exacerbated during the pandemic lockdowns, leading the City Council to make a change to the city’s plumbing code that would require businesses to open up their restrooms to the public. The change hinged on City Hall’s interpretation of what “the public” meant. Ultimately, Mayor Eric Adams' administration decided the change did not actually require businesses to open up their restrooms to non-patrons, according to Crain’s New York.
Earlier this year, City Council Member Rita Joseph introduced a bill that would require the mayor's office to propose at least one public bathroom location per zip code by June 1, 2023.
For New Yorkers who need to know where they can find a free and accessible bathroom right now, there are options, but you have to know where to look. Got2GoNYC is a TikTok and Instagram account that rates and highlights free, accessible bathrooms in the city.
Its creator, Theodora Siegel, receives countless tips from followers who share bathroom codes and contribute to a shared Google Map of public restrooms. She also spoke at a rally ahead of the City Council hearing on the public bathroom bill last week.
Below are some of the best and most reliable public bathrooms in all five boroughs, according to Got2GotNYC and its followers.
Bluestockings Cooperative 116 Suffolk St, New York, NY 10002 Not only does this Lower East Side local indie bookstore have a hot pink gender neutral bathroom, it also offers free menstrual products, free condoms and a sharps container. It is handicap accessible as well.
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Chelsea Market 75 9th Ave, New York, NY 10011 Located in the basement of Chelsea Market is a picture-perfect bathroom. This retro-chic bathroom is extremely clean, handicap accessible, and has a self-sanitizing changing table!
Apple Store on 5th Avenue 767 5th Ave, New York, NY 10153 This bathroom will be there for you no matter what time of day. It’s open 24/7, it is handicap accessible and equipped with a changing table.
Bryant Park From the classical music, art on the walls, fresh flowers and the friendly attendants who keep this masterpiece of a bathroom so clean, the Bryant Park restrooms make you feel like royalty — not to mention the closest thing to magic on earth: Self-changing toilet seat covers! This bathroom should be a tourist destination.
Queens Public Library at Steinway 21-45 31st St, Queens, NY 11105 Public libraries are always there for you and your bladder. This location is especially welcoming after undergoing a near $5 million renovation earlier this year to make the building and its bathrooms more accessible for people with disabilities.
Barnes & Noble in Park Slope 267 7th Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11215 Like New York Public Libraries, bookstores are known for being a safe haven to relieve oneself. Head to the bottom floor of this Barnes & Noble to find the most reliable bathroom in Park Slope.
The Hoxton 97 Wythe Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11249 This hotel has the most instagrammable public bathroom in all of Williamsburg. The stalls have floor to ceiling doors, it doesn’t get too crowded and every sink is equipped with top-quality soaps. The lobby is stylish and filled with comfy chairs, making it a perfect place to do work or charge your phone.
St. George Ferry Terminal The terminal is equipped with multiple clean and accessible bathrooms, each with changing tables and ample stalls.
Burlington 1925 Turnbull Ave, The Bronx, NY 10473 The bathrooms can be found on the second floor.
Van Cortlandt Nature Center 246th Street and, Broadway, The Bronx, NY 10471 This park is known for housing the country's first public golf course, the oldest house in the Bronx, and the borough's largest freshwater lake, but did you know there is also a public bathroom located at the edge of the trail near the Nature Center?
If you’re not near any of these crowd-favorite bathrooms, keep an eye out for these kinds of businesses and public spaces:
They are in every neighborhood and are a calming place to unwind and use the restroom in peace. One library manager said that all NYPL bathrooms are open to the public and that you do not have to show a library card to use them.
It is highly likely that you’ll be able to find a public bathroom in every church in NYC. Got2GoNYC recommends the bathroom in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Midtown Manhattan.
All major centers of transportation have public and accessible bathrooms. Penn Station, Port Authority Bus Terminal, and Whitehall Terminal are a few examples. The Port Authority Bus Terminal even has an attendant!
From larger chains like Barnes & Noble to the local indie bookstore Bluestockings Cooperative, NYC bookstores are known for having bathrooms available to the public. The Union Square Barnes & Noble bathrooms recently reopened after undergoing a renovation. Fun fact: At four-stories tall, this is the largest Barnes & Noble in the world.
From higher end department stores such as Bloomingdales, Bergdorf Goodman, and Saks Fifth Avenue, to lower-price retailers such as TJ Maxx and Burlington, you will 100% be able to find a public bathroom.
A Trader Joe’s employee in Flatiron told Got2GoNYC that most locations have public bathrooms.
Check the Park’s Department website for an extensive list detailing which public parks have restroom facilities. Just a heads up: while almost all NYC Parks have public bathrooms, they are not known for being clean.
Many people have told Got2GoNYC that they’ve had luck asking hospitals to use their bathrooms without having an appointment.
Restroom access cards for people with eligible medical conditions:
Medical cards are available for those with certain gastrointestinal diseases and any other medical condition that would require immediate access to a toilet. The state Department of Health says that these cards were created in response to the Crohn’s and Colitis Fairness Act and can help you get access to an employee-only toilet
Be sure to save @got2gonyc’s crowdsourced Google Maps of bathrooms.
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