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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NYU 25 W. 4th St. Woman’s Restroom Update

One of the stalls in the basement woman's restroom at NYU's 25 W. 4th St. still couldn't be closed two weeks after I sent in a work request and after I was told they completed a work request (but I'm not sure which one).

So a few weeks ago I began working on my final assignment for Journalistic Inquiry at New York University. I decided to focus on an area rarely breached by anyone because it is so awkward to talk about–the bathroom situation. Because the final assignment isn’t due until Sunday, I won’t spoil what I’m focusing on yet. But for the so-called “sniff” assignment due a week ago, I investigated the state of the basement bathroom at NYU’s 25 W. 4th St.

Before conducting some field research on April 26th, I sent in a Facilities & Construction Management work request form about the bathroom, because I had spoken to a few women who were unsatisfied with it: Many of the people I interviewed explained they believed the bathroom was in extremely poor condition. To be clear: I understand that keeping bathrooms clean is hard, especially for university bathrooms that get a lot of traffic, which is why the piece’s focus was the bathroom’s condition in terms of physical condition.

After I published the blog post, nothing happened. Then last Sunday, F &CM sent me the following email, acknowledging that they had completed my work request. (The work request number doesn’t match the number of the original request I sent, but while I was interviewing Beth Morningstar for the article, she said she was sending in a work request form for me, so I can only assume that the one she sent matches the completed form below.)

Greetings:      ANNA SANDERS

We are pleased to inform you that your work request number 11-084145 has been completed.

Work Description:         25-W 4TH ST,BSMT,WOMANS BATHROOM STALLS ARE WOBBLY
AND NOT SUFFICIENTLY ATTACHED TO THE FLOOR

If you have any questions regarding the work that was performed,
please reference the work request number 11-084145 when contacting us:

Telephone: (212) 998-1001
Fax:       (212) 995-4671
Email:     fcm.helpdesk@nyu.edu

The work request form above only addresses the issue of the stalls being wobbly, but it doesn’t include the issue of stalls not closing, which in the first request I sent, not the one sent by Morningstar, explained “AND SOMETIMES THE DOORS DONT CLOSE”. However, this might be because they were addressing a work request form sent by Morningstar.

One of the eight stalls in the basement woman's restroom at NYU's 25 W. 4th St. was locked from the inside. I took this picture by holding my phone above the door.

Yesterday, May 3, I visited the bathroom again from 10:30-11 a.m. Though I didn’t have a whole lot of time to investigate the bathroom’s conditions, two of eight stalls were unusable–both for the same reasons highlighted in the last piece. One of the stalls was, again, locked from the inside. Another stall’s door still couldn’t be locked let alone closed.

I understand that a university failing to fix two stalls in  a single bathroom isn’t the end of the world. I also understand that it takes a while for a work request to go through a large institution’s bureaucratic nonsense. But I don’t understand how F&CM can send someone to check the bathroom and then–even if that person were only checking the stalls’ wobbly-ness–how that person can see that two of the eight stalls are unusable and not fix it. And then to have the nerve to send me a note explaining it’s okay, the stalls aren’t wobbly–that’s unacceptable.

As a person who pays a ton of tuition to this university, I would really appreciate it if the university would be honest about the state of its facilities. I also suspect that the bathroom could be fixed with only a fraction of my personal tuition for one semester. I don’t know how to say this any clearer, but “this reporter” is disappointed with NYU.

NYU’s 25 W. 4th Basement Woman’s Restroom Won’t Be Renovated Until 2013

One of the wobbly stalls in the basement woman's restroom at NYU's 25 W. 4th St. Many female students feel the restroom is in need of renovation.

The ladies restroom in the basement of New York University’s building at 25 W. 4th Street has eight stalls, but there’s still a line to get in at different times: that’s because one of them has a broken door, another’s door can’t be opened and two more are so wobbly that women would rather wait for an adequate facility. And it seems like they’ll have to wait two more years for true relief — that’s when renovations are scheduled.

Tisch School of the Arts senior Allie Pfeffer said her experience in that bathroom has been terrible.

“This is the worst woman’s restroom I’ve seen at NYU,” she said. Pfeffer added that many of the stalls aren’t functioning because the doors don’t close completely. “There are so few stalls that are actually usable that the line that forms is very long and very slow,” she said.

College of Arts and Science junior Brittany Holzherr said she believes the bathroom is “disgusting” and in need of immediate repair. She added that she thought the facility was in such bad condition because it doesn’t get a lot of student traffic.

“The best restrooms are those in the much larger buildings such as Kimmel,” Holzherr said.

Upon hearing a few students’ concerns about the bathroom’s condition, this reporter sent in a Facilities & Construction Management work request form to see if the university’s facilities management felt the same:

Client Services Center

Work Order Number:            11-083482

Building:            25-W 4TH ST

Work Order Description:            25-W 4TH ST,BSMT,LADIES RESTROOM,THE STALLS IN THE WOMENS RESTROOM WOBBLE AND SOMETIMES THE DOORS DONT CLOSE. THE STALLS ARENT ADEQUATELY FIXED TO THE FLOOR.

Requestor Name:            Anna Sanders

Request Date:            15-APR-11

One of the eight stalls at 25 W. 4th St. is broken. It cannot be securely locked or even closed.

A representative from Client Services followed up to say that someone from F&CM would check out the conditions. Ten days after a work request was sent in, an examination of the facility revealed the following:

  • Two out of eight stalls are wobbly
  • Four out of eight toilets don’t seem secured to the wall and have cracks in the caulk and porcelain
  • Two out of eight stall doors don’t close completely
  • Three out of eight stalls have half-inch gaps between the stall structure and the door. It is easy to look through the gap and see everything that’s happening in the stall
  • All of the five sinks work, but they are all also dirty
  • The floor is slightly dirty but it fair condition
  • One of the stalls (pictured to the right) is missing a piece of the stall structure (a reporter couldn’t close the door because there is a five-inch gap) and is, for all intents and purposes, broken
  • One stall wouldn’t open at all and appeared locked from inside. Upon investigation through the small gap, there appeared to a mysterious brown color on the toilet. It’s unknown how long that stall has been out-of-order

On April 25 from 4:30 to 5 p.m. when these observations were made, two of the bathrooms eight stalls weren’t functioning and the majority were in need of some repair, either with the stall structure or the toilets.

During this reporter’s investigation, one student walked in and peered in the broken stall before determining it couldn’t be used. “This stall isn’t actually a stall,” she said. “That’s…interesting,” she added, swinging the door 180 degrees.

One of the toilets with visible cracks in the caulk and porcelain. Toilets at the bathroom in the basement at 25 W. 4th St. are designed to be securely mounted to the wall.

Though the survey demonstrated the bathroom is in disastrous condiditon, it “probably” won’t receive a complete renovation until 2013, according to Beth Morningstar, director of strategic assessment and communications office of the executive vice president at NYU’s Office of Strategic Assessment, Planning, & Design.

“It hasn’t been repaired since 2010, so we may want to send the plumbing shop in there,” Morningstar said. “Usually summer times are a good time to go around and get a lot of the stuff done.”

Morningstar explained that the bathroom’s wobbly stalls are inherent in the design of all NYU restrooms, explaining that the stalls in this particular restroom are wall-mounted and attached to a wall carrier instead of to the floor by design.

Nevertheless, the cracks in the caulk and porcelain in several of the bathroom’s toilets suggest they are not properly secured to the wall.

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 was in bad shape.

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