Before I became a guide I would go get a soda at a bar and use the restroom. But now my work takes me up-and-down Manhattan island and into Brooklyn. Tour guides have to find toilets for groups of up to 55 people, the full capacity of a large coach bus. Here are many that other tour guides in the Guides Association of NYC have shown or told me about. And a couple I’ve discovered myself.
Battery Park: Standalone public restrooms on the North side of the park, across the street from the white cube- shaped building seen here:
https://youtu.be/PSFdrVnkrYs More restrooms are found inside Castle Clinton, the old stone Fort. Both sets close between 5 and 6 PM. All the statue of liberty ferries have restrooms.
Brooklyn bridge: I was once seriously – seriously – asked, “are there any toilets on the bridge?” No, but there are toilets if you take the staircase down on the Brooklyn side to the hot dog stand. Tell Smiley, the hot dog man, “Tourguide Stan says hi.” Then turn right and go to the park you’ll see ahead of you. In the one building in the park, there are restrooms. I think they close at 5 PM.
If you start on the Brooklyn side, take the A train to High street, the 1st stop in Brooklyn. Then walk across to the park. The staircase up onto the bridge walkway is just beyond the far left edge of the park.
If you’re crossing toward Manhattan and only have to go when you get to Manhattan, turn left. There’s a Starbucks at the corner of Park Row and Beekman street.
PRO TIP: Make it an experience. Cross Beekman street and go into Temple Court in the Beekman Hotel. Relax in a stuffed armchair at a little table and have some coffee. Look straight up to the 60′ skylight 9 stories above you!
Central Park: the stairway restrooms by Bethesda Fountain are closed in winter. Use the Hecksher playground near the 7th Avenue & 59th Street, or the ones about 30 yards or meters in from the Columbus Circle entrance that’s closest to the big silver globe across 8th Avenue. Cleaner, warmer restrooms are across the circle under the big curved building in the Whole Foods Market.
Chinatown: Columbus Park has two pairs of restrooms. The park closes at sundown. There are I don’t know how many hundred restaurants in Chinatown, and each one has a restroom. If the waiter doesn’t speak English, try saying “chee saw.” That’s my poor attempt at Cantonese, asking where the bathroom is.
DUMBO: inside Empire Stores, first floor. It’s near the carousel.
Financial District: 60 Wall Street is a POPS, a Privately Owned Public Space, with restrooms way in the back on the right side. Recently, in 2022, they have been locked. Maybe they’ll be open now? They are supposed to be open.
Fulton Center Subway station, where the green, red and blue trains come together, has lovely bathrooms but they are closed for the duration of covid. More than 180 MTA workers have died of covid, and now there is a shortage of workers, so there’s nobody to clean the restrooms. So they’re closed. Thanks, antivaxxers.
Grand Central: basement, west side, near Chirping Chicken sign. Escalator back up to the first floor takes you almost straight to the souvenir store of the Subway system and MTA.
Greenwich Village: Again, many little places to eat and some very good restaurants as well. In Washington Square, there are public restrooms across the park from the big white arch. I think they close at 6 or so.
Midtown: Trump tower basement. Probably the nicest bathrooms in Midtown. Trump tower is a ‘POPS’, or Privately Owned Public Space. Here’s an article about POPS that sometimes do and sometimes don’t have bathrooms: https://www.archdaily.com/988099/what-happens-when-public-spaces-are-without-public-restrooms#:~:text=When%20POPS%20are%20greater%20than,typically%20means%20an%20accompanying%20bathroom.
Rockefeller Center: 2 elevators inside glass bubbles are on the sidewalks of 49th and 50th street, flanking the skating rink. Go down the 50th Street elevator and look beyond a big empty room (in 2022) for restrooms. Women on the left, men on the right. The status of that room may change over time, but the restrooms will be exactly where they are now. It’s really expensive to move plumbing around.
South Street Seaport, one-story building under the highway. Or any of the many bars and restaurants in the area.
Staten Island ferry terminal bathrooms are open all night long. You know this from the Edna Saint Vincent Millay poem:
We were very tired
We were very merry
We’d spent all night going
Back-and-forth on the ferry.
Incidentally, the ferries have restrooms, for when you go to Staten Island and back, 500 feet from Miss Liberty.
Times Square: Port Authority bus terminal near the elevators. The 3rd floor restrooms are cleaner than the 1st and 2nd, with shorter lines.
World Trade Center: under Tower 4. There are signs in the Oculus that send you through a long tunnel from the Oculus, then under tower 3, then under Tower 4. But if you’re near Tower 4 on the surface, you can save a lot of walking by just going downstairs. The Episcopal chapel of Saint Paul also has three single restrooms, although you’ve got to go through a metal detector to use them. But definitely look around the chapel. It is awesomely historic to Americans and in the September 11th story.
I hope this directory of tourist-friendly restroom advice helps you, when you visit NYC. Remember, I’m for hire by the hour – at least two hours a day – or by the day or week. Find me at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to http://www.isleofnewyorktours.com
Isle Of New York!