Table of Contents
- 1 Uptown
- 2 Downtown
- 3 Midtown
- 4 Brooklyn
- 5 Barnes & Noble, 267 Seventh Ave., Park Slope
- 6 Queens
- 7 Special mentions
It’s been some New Yorkers’ No. 1 concern for ages: Where do you go when you really gotta go?
For Teddy Siegel, the city’s dire lack of public bathrooms came to a head this past July, while she was shopping in Times Square after guzzling an iced coffee.
“I’ve always had an extremely small bladder so being in the city has always been extremely anxiety-inducing for me,” the 22-year-old graduate student told The Post. “I was on the verge of peeing myself.”
She asked one store to use their bathroom and was denied; eventually she had to shell out for a $3 bottle of water to use a McDonald’s bathroom. The purchase stung of injustice, especially when she realized the door was unlocked.
“I need my $3 a lot more than McDonald’s does,” she said.
Siegel, who noticed that the pandemic made it even harder to pee in NYC as businesses locked down their restrooms tighter, decided no one should ever be stranded in the city with a full bladder.
So, she started a TikTok account, Got2GoNYC, where she’s listing free bathrooms across the city and crowdsourcing tips on finding more. She’s become a leak leaker, too, liberating access codes for customer-only bathrooms, along with posting late-night options and spots with free menstrual products and changing tables.
Clearly a lot of people got2go: The account has gained more than 92,000 followers and the videos have racked up millions of views. The comments are full of appreciative residents and tourists praising the whiz kid for saving their days.
“Followed! We fly in Wednesday to elope, terrified of needing to pee in my wedding dress,” one commenter gushed.
New Yorkers have long tracked free public bathrooms in different shared maps or by word of mouth, but Siegel, a Long Island native who lives in Gramercy, wants to do more with the account. She’s riding the memes and lip syncs of the TikTok algorithm to call out the cruelty of denying people, especially unhoused New Yorkers, access to the most basic human need.
“It’s honestly so unacceptable that New York City is not taking care of the people who live here,” said Siegel, adding that as a young white woman, she has it easier than some others who have to beg for bathroom access. “It is kind of offensive being turned away from different places when you’re literally on the verge of going in your pants. It’s just not really something that people should have to deal with.”
The Big Apple is far from flush with bathrooms, according to a 2020 report from the Urban Design Forum.
New York ranks a crappy 80th out of 100 cities in the country in the number of places to go in parks, libraries, subways and public spaces per capita. Squeaky clean Washington, DC, has three times as many. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg pledged in 2006 to install 20 paid, self-cleaning toilets around the five boroughs; only five have been installed, according to a report by the news site the City. The rest of the thrones sit mothballed in a warehouse in Queens.
Lack of loos, Siegel says, directly leads to another infamous New York City gripe: It smells like piss. And another hot summer is right around the corner.
“If they [the city] just came up with a different solution, they wouldn’t have to arrest people for public urination or have the city smell so horrendous,” said Siegel, who has teamed up with the nonprofit ClearPath NYC to provide a list of bathrooms for homeless youth.
The NYPD wrote 571 summonses for public urination in 2019; that number actually dropped in the past two years, when cops eased up on quality of life enforcement during the pandemic. The issue hasn’t been wiped away, though: Complaints about public urination doubled from 2019 to 2021, according to 311 data.
Siegel hopes the city will create a tax incentive for businesses to open their bathrooms to the public, or just build more in public spaces. Until then, she’ll keep drinking her iced coffees with new confidence.
“Sometimes I have to ration the amount I’m drinking until I know that there is a place that I can use the bathroom,” she said.
Here by location are Siegel’s favorite free bathrooms in the city.
West Elm, 1870 West Broadway
“West Elm has two very large gender-neutral bathrooms equipped with a changing table; great for dads. They also have a policy posted on the mirror that states that they sanitize the bathroom after each use,” Siegel said of this favorite near Central Park, Columbus Circle and Lincoln Center.
Bloomingdale’s, 504 Broadway
“It’s my personal favorite, it’s always very clean and has great lighting for selfies — each mirror has its own long light. It’s just really aesthetically pleasing, the tile that’s in the bathroom is a really nice, calming shade of blue,” Siegel said. Plus, “there’s a lot of stall options, so you don’t really have to wait very long.”
“The Bryant Park bathrooms are the nicest I’ve ever been to,” Siegel said. “They have classical music, fresh flowers, art on the walls and attendants who are constantly cleaning. They literally should be a tourist attraction.”
Barnes & Noble, 267 Seventh Ave., Park Slope
Need a pit stop after making the loop around Prospect Park? Siegel called this “the most reliable bathroom in Park Slope. Conveniently located near a Starbucks, for those who are lactose intolerant but dangerously addicted to whole milk caramel macchiatos.”
Queens Public Library at Steinway, 21-45 31st St., Ditmars Steinway
“Any public library will allow people to use their bathrooms!” Siegel said. “Libraries are a nice calming environment to be in general [and they’re] usually pretty inclusive and welcoming.” This library is particularly welcoming: It reopened earlier this year after undergoing nearly $5 million in renovations to upgrade the interior and make it more accessible for those with disabilities.
Harry Potter New York, 935 Broadway
“Sometimes the line to get into the building can be long, but if you go on a weekday you should be able to just walk right in,” Siegel advised. The bathrooms are “really big and gender-neutral, and there’s a sign in ‘Harry Potter’ font.”