Despite Poor Conditions, No Immediate Plans to Renovate Ladies Restrooms in NYU’s Silver Center

Ladies restroom on the seventh floor in the Silver Center. The six women's restrooms in the Silver Center all had maintenance problems.

On the fifth-floor ladies restroom in New York University’s Silver Center for Arts and Science, Angelica Mitchell looked at a one-inch hole in a stall door—seemingly left behind from a previous lock—her eyebrows arched critically.

“People can see what you’re doing in there,” said Mitchell, a participant in the Upward Bound 1199 program at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, which sometimes meets in Silver Center.  “Like, if someone’s walking by, they might see you…you know, doing your business,” she added.

Though Silver Center’s ladies restrooms are fairly clean, an examination of the building’s six facilities, on floors two to seven, revealed several disturbing maintenance problems. Some of the six bathrooms’ problems—broken soap dispensers, for instance—seemed to be caused by overuse. But the majority of problems, like the holes that concerned Mitchell, seem inherent in the faulty maintenance and design of the Silver Center’s female restrooms altogether. Though several female students interviewed said they believed the bathrooms were in poor condition, the university is only beginning the plan to renovate some of the facilities and they have not specified a completion date.

Toilet paper stuffed in a one-inch hole found on six of 27 stall doors in ladies restrooms in the Silver Center.

“The ones in Silver are actually kind-of shitty,” College of Arts and Science sophomore Meredith DeBlasio said, laughing. She explained the Silver Center’s bathrooms aren’t as nice as those in other university buildings because stalls and other bathroom amenities appear broken. DeBlasio said that this might be because the Silver Center is a CAS-specific building, where other buildings cater to students in all colleges.

The Silver Center includes 10 aboveground floors with classrooms, laboratories and offices for mostly CAS students and faculty, though every student generally uses the building at some point. Located on the corner of Washington Square East and Waverly Place, the building is next to the university’s Waverly and Brown buildings, which students and faculty can reach through the Silver Center, formally called the Main Building. On floors nine and 10, there are no ladies restrooms. However, women have access to the bathrooms in the Waverly Building. On the eighth floor, there’s no bathroom access whatsoever because the floor is laboratory-exclusive. 

In the Silver Center, there are six ladies restrooms with 27 stalls, 17 sinks and 13 soap dispensers. Though hundreds of women use the facilities every day, an examination of the bathroom on May 7 revealed each of the bathrooms had serious maintenance problems. The report summary is at the right (click to enlarge), but the following were the biggest offenses:

  • Six out of 27 stalls had broken locks or the stalls can’t be closed at all
  • Six out of 27 stalls had holes left from earlier locks. The holes are about one inch in diameter and allow those outside the stall to see in. In several cases, women have attempted privacy by stuffing toilet paper through the hole
  • Five out of 27 toilet paper roll dispensers lack a secure dispensing system. The rolls are on bars perpendicular to the stall wall and, if you pull too quickly, they fall off the bar
  • On the second floor, one of the three sinks isn’t working
  • Four out of 17 a total sinks have faulty faucets. When the faucets are turned on, water comes out, but they must be held on to keep the water flowing. However, this makes it difficult to wash one’s hands, as seen in the video below
  • An open window on the fourth floor bathroom leads to the fire escape, where a weathered pack of Newport cigarettes sits
  • In some of the stalls, the doors open inside, so, to exit the stall, one must maneuver oneself over the toilet in a straddle position

The stall on the fourth floor ladies restroom in the Silver Center where this reporter got stuck for three minutes. The lock was loose.

The ladies restrooms in the Silver Center were clean overall, but this reporter’s examination of the facilities determined that the conditions of the bathrooms’ amenities were poor. Many of the mentioned maintenance problems show that using the restroom in the Silver Center is difficult and uncomfortable. As a result of a loose lock in one of the stalls on the fourth floor, this reporter was able to get in the stall, but couldn’t unlock the stall and leave right away. After shaking the door for about three minutes, this reporter loosened the lock enough to open the door.

CAS sophomore Savannah Shipman has also experienced some difficulties exiting the bathroom stalls in the Silver Center.

“On the seventh floor, if you use the handicap stall at the end while someone else is in the stall next door then you might have trouble leaving if they finish first,” she said. Shipman explained that when the door of the other stall is left open, she can’t open the handicap stall door easily because it’s blocked. “It eventually gives and you can get out,” she said.

However, the university may not resolve these problems for some time.

“I haven’t heard of any bathroom renovations—you know of big renovation projects—in the Silver Center,” said Beth Morningstar, director of strategic assessment and communications office of the executive vice president at NYU’s Office of Strategic Assessment, Planning, & Design. However, in a later email Morningstar explained the university is beginning the plan to renovate certain Silver Center bathrooms. “There is not yet a date of expected completion, but I can tell you for sure that it will not be this summer,” she said.

Morningstar said that bathrooms are not only expensive to renovate, but that other facilities, like classrooms and labs, usually get precedence.

“I think they are kept really clean, but I feel that a deferred maintenance program for renovations would make them a little nicer and a little more pleasant to use,” she said. Though she feels the bathrooms could use some work, Morningstar noted that when smaller maintenance problems—such as a stopped up toilet or a plugged sink—are reported, those problems become the top priority.

The ladies restroom on LL1 in Elmer Holmes Bobst Library is in better condition than those in the Silver Center.

Compared to the ladies restroom on LL1 in Elmer Holmes Bobst Library, those in the Silver Center fail to impress. With 15 stalls, four hand dryers, 13 sinks and no obvious maintenance problems, some students believe the Bobst lower level ladies restroom is in better condition.

One female CAS junior said that she preferred the bathrooms in Bobst to those in the Silver Center. “When I last used the second floor bathroom, it seemed in need of repair,” she said. “It looked old, unstable.”

Morningstar also mentioned the condition of the LL1 ladies restroom. “Have you been to the bathrooms in the bottom of the library? They’re all renovated down there,” she said.

CAS sophomore Nadrah Mohammed said she also prefers the library, but that they aren’t as clean as the ones in the Silver Center. “They smell in Bobst,” she said, adding that this might be due to increased library traffic during finals.

However, Mohammed noted that the worst ladies restroom was at 25 W. 4th St.

A previous examination of the female bathroom in the basement level of 25 W. 4th St. showed that the bathroom was in worse condition than the ladies restrooms in the Silver Center. One of the stalls was missing a piece of the stall structure and it couldn’t be closed. Another stall was locked from the inside and seemed out-of-order. In addition, half of the toilets had cracks in them.

CAS senior Erin Kidder lamented the toilets’ poor condition. “The seats are wobbly and low,” she said, adding that it feels like she is using preschool-sized bathrooms. However, Kidder emphasized the entire bathroom at 25 w. 4th St. was in bad shape.

“I think it’s an abysmal excuse for a water closet,” she said.

Though she conditions were bad in Silver Center ladies restrooms, as well as other university facilities like the 25 W. 4th bathroom, DeBlasio said the university might not care. She added that, while it might annoy some to use stalls with holes in them, the university wouldn’t see it as that big of a deal. “I feel like NYU’s priorities are with other stuff right now,” she said.

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