Did you see the $2 million dollar bathroom? That's what New York City government spent to build a "comfort station" in a park.
I went to look at it.
There were no gold-plated fixtures. It's just a little building with four toilets and four sinks.
I asked park users, "What do you think that new bathroom cost?"
A few said $70,000. One said $100,000. One said, "I could build it for $10,000."
They were shocked when I told them what the city spent.
No park bathroom needs to cost $2 million. An entire six-bedroom house nearby was for sale for $539,000.
Everything costs more when government builds it.
"Government always pays above-average prices for below-average work," says my friend who makes a living privatizing government ahctivities.
- Obamacare's website was supposed to cost $464 million. It cost $834 million and still crashed.
- Washington, D.C.'s Visitor Center rose in cost from $265 million to $621 million.
- The Veterans Affairs medical center being built near Denver was projected to cost $590 million. Now they estimate $1.7 billion
Government spends more because every decision is tied up in endless rules. Rigid specs. Affirmative action. Minority outreach. Wheelchair access. "The process is designed to prevent any human from using judgment, or adapting to unforeseen circumstances," says Philip Howard of the government reform group Common Good, adding, "The idea of a commercial relationship, based on norms of reasonableness and reciprocity, is anathema."
But New York City's bureaucrats are unapologetic about their $2 million toilet. The Parks Department even put out a statement saying, "Our current estimate to build a new comfort station with minimal site work is $3 million."
"$3 million?!" I said to New York City Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver, incredulously.
"New York City is the most expensive place to build," he replied. As a result, "$2 million was a good deal."
I pointed out that entire homes sell for less. He said, "We built these comfort stations to last... Look at the material we use compared to that of a home. These are very, very durable materials."
They have to be, he says, because the bathroom gets so much use. "We're going to expect thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of visitors... So we have to build it to last."
Yet not far away, Bryant Park has a bathroom that gets much more use. That bathroom cost just $300,000. Why the difference?
Bryant Park is privately managed.