A New York company has started marketing what amounts to an upscale pay toilet service. Posh Stow and Go will offer visitors to the Big Apple “clean, safe and soundproof” bathrooms worthy of “the greatest city in the world,” in addition to such other amenities as “luxury showers” and private storage rooms.
Prices for the Midtown facility, which is set to open around June, start at $24 for a three-day pass (or $8 a day), plus a mandatory $15 annual membership fee. The company envisions opening other locations throughout the city-lower Manhattan is next on the list-but warns that “only a limited number of memberships will be sold so as to provide the best possible experience.”
Company founder Wayne Parks says the idea was borne out of his own experiences traveling to the city for the day. “I always found myself in a situation where I needed a restroom…and I knew I wasn’t alone in placing a high value on privacy and cleanliness,” he says.
Parks may have a point: The lack of clean and comfortable public restrooms in major American metropolitan areas-especially New York-is an issue that’s been raised for years. The aptly named Phlush , a public restroom advocacy group based in Portland, Oregon, goes so far as to argue that “toilet availability is a human right” and “well-designed sanitation systems restore health to our cities.”
But the issue for cities remains twofold: Public restrooms are expensive to build and maintain and they are seen as a potential magnet for vagrants. For the latter reason alone, the city of Pensacola, Fla.., recently approved an ordinance making it illegal for homeless individuals to wash or shave in public restrooms. (The ordinance was part of a larger push to address problems involving the homeless, though city leaders are now considering reversing the policies .)
Some cities have begun addressing the bathroom availability issue by introducing low-cost, self-cleaning pay toilets. In New York, for example, city officials announced such a plan in 2005, but the project has yet to move considerably forward-with only three of the projected 20 facilities having opened to date, according to The New York Post .
That would seemingly leave room for a private venture like Posh Stow and Go to fill the void. Still, Jonathan Murphy, a city planning expert who writes the Big Smoke blog , remains skeptical, saying a pay-by-the-day upscale toilet facility goes against the grain of the democratic urban ideal.
“At a time of extreme wealth inequity, what could illustrate New York City’s economic and social divisions more than a subscription to a luxury ‘public’ restroom,” Murphy says.