With the exception of those sparkling new lavatories that reopened in Bryant Park earlier this year, public bathrooms in NYC are pretty much places you visit only in extreme cases of emergency. Plus, they’re few and far between for a city with a population of 8.5 million people (a conundrum mined years ago on Seinfeld), are usually pretty grimy and are way overdue for a toilet-paper refill. But if NYC took some bathroom cues from these major cities, we’d all be relieved—literally.
Retractable toilets in Amsterdam
At night, Dam Square is populated with urinals that pop up from underground. They cater to the drinking crowd, who’d otherwise urinate in public while barhopping. The design has caught on in London and Perth, Australia, and last year, Amsterdam was the first metropolis to offer a version for women.
Self-cleaning toilets in Paris
The idea behind these self-contained johns, located on boulevards and in public parks, is simple: You step inside, do your business, and once you exit, the bathroom momentarily locks for an automatic cleaning and disinfecting session to prepare for the next user. About a decade ago, NYC was on track to install 20 of these around the city, but the project has fallen behind. Fingers crossed that it picks up steam again soon.
High-tech toilets in Tokyo
Innovation reigns supreme in Japan, so of course you’ll find high-tech add-ons in the bathrooms here. Johns equipped with bidets and dryers are the norm in many of the public restrooms in train stations. Another feature is the otohime sound option, which masks any unpleasant noises you’d rather not make in public. A toilet fancier than the one in your apartment? Yes, please.