For just 25 cents, you finally can experience the steel-and-glass splendor of the city's first new public toilet. City officials gathered in Madison Square Park for the ceremonial first flush of the Automatic Public Toilet (APT). Almost a year after the location was announced and almost 2 years after the toilets were first previewed, Department of Transportation Commissioner Jeannette Sadik-Khan said she was "flushed with excitement in this new era...New Yorkers had their fingers and legs crossed for this special day." And so it goes.


The DOT explains how the self-cleaning APT will work:

The APTs cost 25 cents to operate, with a time limit of 15 minutes and will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Each APT is climate-controlled and includes a toilet, a wash basin with running warm water, and a mirror. An automated system controls the door and prevents unauthorized entrance, and the APTs are fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

After 12 minutes of use, an acoustic alarm and red flashing lights go off for three minutes before the door opens. Once a user has exited, the APT doors will close and the 90-second automatic cleaning cycle will begin. During the cleaning cycle the interior surfaces of the APT are cleaned and dried. Once the self-cleaning process is complete, a new user can access the APT.

The NY Times gives it a mixed review. Reporter Michael Wilson says the wait for the APT's doors to close (it's long in case someone needs more time) is "possibly the longest and most awkward 20 to 30 seconds of a person's day." Also, the toilet evokes "a dungeon or a scene from one of the 'Saw' pictures" because it's "an imposing, metal, cold-looking receptacle" - not unlike a prison loo - and there's a limit to how much toilet paper you can take. Still, it's big and seemed clean (well, it was new).

Were you one of the first to try the public toilet? As this is the first of twenty to be installed, would you use one?

Photographs by Mary Altaffer/AP