By Madina Toure
The city has scrapped plans to build a public pay toilet at Lippman Arcade in Flushing.
In June 2008, the city Department of Transportation said Corona Plaza at National Street near Roosevelt Avenue and the Lippmann Arcade, an outdoor plaza between Roosevelt and 39th avenues, would be among 20 locations in the city to get a public pay toilet as part of the Coordinated Street Furniture Franchise.
A toilet was installed at Corona Plaza in December 2008 and another at Madison Square Park in Manhattan in January 2008.
But when Cemusa started installing the toilet at Lippmann Arcade, it realized that underground conditions prevented installation of the foundation, a DOT spokesman said.
Scott Sieber, director of communications for City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing), said Koo’s predecessor, John Liu, was involved in the project.
Koo only learned of the plan after seeing a published report and reached out to the DOT, which told him the plan was cancelled. He is waiting for a response from the agency regarding criteria for the ideal location.
“We needed to know before anything else, what is the criteria for building one of these?” Sieber said.
The DOT spokesman said requirements for potential sites are rigorous, including access to a sewer, available sidewalk space, clearance from underground barriers and community support.
Each toilet has a deep and wide foundation, requiring a large swath of open space below the surface, the spokesman explained.
In 2006, the DOT signed an agreement with Cemusa, a Spanish street furniture company, in which the company would design, install and maintain street furniture at no cost to the city. In exchange, the city allows Cemusa to sell advertising space on the structures within specific limits.
The toilets cost 25 cents for a 15-minute use window and self-clean after each use. Standard hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Nigel Emery, Cemusa’s vice president of marketing and business development, said the site was not suitable for a public pay toilet because of the site conditions, stressing that the DOT tells them where to build the toilets.
“It’s got to be close to a sewer,” Emery said. “There has to be sidewalk space around it so people can get to it and there’s all this stuff under the surface.”
State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) said she was disappointed that the public toilet has not yet been installed in Flushing.
Although she has not received any calls or letters regarding the Flushing project, she said the toilet in Corona was used 1,920 times in one 30-day period.
“I haven’t had any letters from anybody on that issue, but on the other hand, if there seems to be a need in Corona, then I assume there’s a need in Flushing,” Stavisky said.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour