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Mayor Adams’s Claim: The Public Can Pee at City Hall. Hell Gate Porcelain New York Rating: FALSE

We tried to use the restrooms in the "people's house" as a member of the public and were turned away.

Looking at City Hall through the gate on the west side.

Looking at City Hall (and it’s off-limits toilets) through the gate on the west side (Hell Gate)

I walked up to City Hall on Thursday afternoon with a full bladder and an open mind. Last Monday, at a press conference to announce a five-year plan to open several dozen new public restrooms across New York City, Mayor Eric Adams told Hell Gate that the public are welcome to use the toilets inside City Hall.

"City Hall is a public building," Mayor Adams said. "It's the people's house, it's not my house. And if the people need the people's house for their restroom facilities, I don't see why they can't." 

As I approached one of the breaks in the west gate to enter City Hall, I wanted to take the mayor at his word—because an elected official's word should be their bond and, like I said, I really had to pee. 

"Hey, I need to use the bathroom, is it cool if I go in there?" I asked the NYPD officer sitting in the security booth. "Nope," he said, amused. 

"I read somewhere earlier this week that Eric Adams said people could use the bathrooms in City Hall," I countered, trying to look sufficiently desperate. 

"Do you have his phone number?" the cop fired back. 

"Eric Adams? No, I don't have his phone number," I replied. "Then you can't go in," the cop said. "There's a Starbucks around the corner." I groaned and walked away without saying thank you.

Anyone entering City Hall from the west side has to first pass through this security gate (Hell Gate)

City Hall is located next to one of three New York City zip codes (10006) that have zero City-operated public restrooms. If I was a regular New Yorker roaming around Lower Manhattan, it's possible that I'd be fucked—forced to buy a Shaken Brown Sugar Oat Milk Espresso or navigate the cursed Oculus in order to relieve myself. I spotted the rows and rows of Porta Potties in nearby City Hall Park, but upon later inspection, almost all of those were zip-tied shut.

I still wanted to use the City Hall bathrooms New Yorkers had been promised access to. Luckily, I had a trick up my sleeve: A press pass issued by the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment, which let me breeze my way through security at the east entrance to City Hall and make my way into the building unencumbered by cops with questions about my contacts list.

A perfectly clean and acceptable restroom in City Hall on the ground floor (Hell Gate)

Once I actually made it into City Hall, I boarded the elevator and descended the women's restroom on the ground floor thanks to directions from some (friendlier) City Hall security guards. The bathroom was roomy and clean, with the retro feel municipal buildings tend to have. There were no hand dryers or automatic sinks, but there were three decent-sized stalls, with a light fixture over each, plus a changing station and a little feminine hygiene zone with pads and tampons. Solid! 

The feminine hygiene zone (Hell Gate)

But I wasn't done. I mean, I was done peeing, but I wasn't done skulking around and checking out the supposedly "public" amenities. I took the elevator up to the second floor of City Hall, where I had to ask someone else for directions to a second women's restroom near the City Council chamber. We've written about these bathrooms before, but woo, they're swanky! The sink area outside of the stalls is a bit cramped—I had to step out to let other people exit before I could go in—but MARBLE walls? An XL accessible stall with its own sink and mirror setup? I fantasized about my life as a staffer in a City councilmember's office—oh the texting I'd do in there! 

Then I flushed the toilet, for realism, and made my exit. If only other New Yorkers without press passes could say the same.

Marble-walled restrooms in City Hall (Hell Gate)

When asked to comment on why a member of the public was turned away from the City Hall restrooms after Mayor Adams explicitly said the public could use them, the Mayor's Office clarified that despite what the mayor said, members of the public must have business in City Hall, or a hearing to attend, in order to access the building.

In an email exchange, Deputy Press Secretary Liz Garcia suggested that we use the Porta Potties in City Hall Park. I replied that those were locked, and again asked whether the City Hall bathrooms would be made available to the public. Garcia suggested we use the new Google Maps layer to use other bathrooms that were not the City Hall bathrooms, like the toilets inside the New York Public Library's New Amsterdam Library on Murray Street, across from City Hall.

Garcia also said that "the whole premise of the question" we asked the mayor last week "was literally wrong." When we asked what, exactly, about the question was "wrong," we did not receive any further response.

We did, however, check out the New Amsterdam Library bathroom. On Friday afternoon, my colleague Max entered the calm, fairly gleaming library, filled with people reading newspapers, using laptops, or watching children roam through the children's section, and asked the clerk for a key to the restroom.

New York Public Library's New Amsterdam Library restroom. Pretty good! (Hell Gate)

The restroom was standardly appointed—toilet, sink, fluorescent—and pretty clean. As we exited the bathroom, we handed the key off to another bathroom user on the way in. 

The Adams administration has proposed cutting library budgets citywide by $58 million.

With additional bathroom reportage from Max Rivlin-Nadler.

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