Stossel: $2 Million Bathroom

John Stossel investigates a New York City park bathroom that cost $2 million to build.


John Stossel investigates a New York City park bathroom that cost $2 million to build.

For that price you might expect gold-plated fixtures—but it's just a tiny building with four toilets and four sinks.

New York City Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver says $2 million was a good deal because "New York City is the most expensive place to build."

He estimates that future bathrooms will cost more than $3 million.

Commissioner Silver argues that this park, on the outskirts of Brooklyn, will get so much use that it must be built to last, and that can be expensive.

Yet privately managed Bryant Park, in the middle of Manhattan, gets much more use and its recent bathroom renovation cost just $271,000.

Since government spends other people's money, it doesn't need to worry about cost or speed. Every decision is bogged down by time-wasting "public engagement," inflated union wages, and productivity-killing work rules.

Two million dollars for a bathroom. That's your government at work.

Edited by Joshua Swain.

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  1. He estimates that future bathrooms will cost more than $3 million.

    This being NYC they don't, of course, plan to build any more public bathrooms. But they can make this $2 mill back by fining all the desperate public urinators.

  2. Granted, it is a nice looking bathroom and the materials used in its construction would generally be more expensive than those used in a house, but the interviewee's defensiveness ("my job depends on municipal inefficiency") underscore's Stossel's point. He "believes in labor," because it is your money he is spending.

  3. "Oh, yes, it's a good thing! Now give me your money! Spending someone else's money is always a good thing!"

  4. Commissioner Silver argues that this park, on the outskirts of Brooklyn, will get so much use that it must be built to last, and that can be expensive.

    This is part of the dynamic right here, which is hard to see and so doesn't get pointed out much.

    What he's alluding to is the fact that you can expect nothing from public employees - part of this is fallout from public employee unionization plus anti-discrimination rules that it make it nearly impossible to fire public employees for any reason.

    The practical upshot is that the maintenance workers directly employed by any given government agency can't be counted to do anything at all. And when they do do something, you can bet they're going to mess it up.

    Architects who design for public construction have to design buildings that will receive essentially no maintenance whatsoever. It has to be "built to last," but not for the reason he states.

    Add to that the tendency of architects to spare no expense when it comes to a publically-funded projects, and a tendency for construction managers to not care as much as they should how much things are costing, toss in a generous helping of union-inflated construction wages and onerous work regulations and a $250k bathroom becomes a $2.5M bathroom (and looks like something out of a five-star hotel even though it's in a park mainly serving hookers and junkies).

    1. The "public engagement" phase, however, is fairly cost-neutral. That one doesn't really belong here.

  5. There are houses nearby that cost between $500,000 and $1 million. The cost of the park bathroom per square foot makes it one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in the city.

    When even your city councilors are blown away by how much money you spent, you dun messed up.

  6. Brought to you by the same people who provide the government schools.

  7. Shouldn't this building be torn down, since it only serves to force people to make a binary choice on which door to enter? Shouldn't government bathrooms only have one door, to avoid offending anyone?

    1. I suppose one door is simpler than my suggest: 68 dogs, or whatever the gender count is up to this week.

      1. Doors, not dogs. Though dogs might be interesting, too.

  8. $5,000 per square foot.

  9. Hint: It did not cost $2,000,000.00 to build.
    It spent $2,000,000.00 in local taxpayer's dollars.

    1. True. The City representative can lie all he wants to, but prevailing wage, strong materials and public engagement isn't what got a restroom to 2 million. Pathetic, incompetent decision making is what did it. The US park service works with companies that make pre-fab restrooms that are ultra durable for a fraction of the cost that are ultra sturdy. Public engagement should be a few hundred dollars for brochures plus coffee and donuts for a meeting.

  10. am i going crazy or did this come out a week ago?

    1. nevermind, it was the article without the video

  11. Fit for a Trump?

  12. Mafia gov. Unions for government jobs is maddness.

    1. Yep. Given the benefits of working for government at ANY level, I'd eliminate ALL unions for those paid by the public.

  13. Mr. Stossel:
    Absolutely correct that government wastes money. And that is regrettable.
    But we can always make more money. The far greater damage is what dirigistes do to the foundations of society.
    Without positing values of any kind, we can note that government distortions of free markets and freedom of choice destroys information. That's derived from Shannon's brilliant insight, on entropy and the parallel equations of diffusion of information.
    In simplest terms, when dirigistes cut off the supply/demand curve at say $15, all that data about preferences, elasticities, and opportunities is lost.
    Government imposes more constraints on the economy than there are free variables. Over-determined = guaranteed inconsistencies and arbitrages.
    So it's not the damage done in the small economic losses of discretionary budget, but the grotesque damage done across the economy and our vital feedback mechanisms.

    1. TL;DR version for prole comment readers:

      The fewer brains that have a say in how things are run, the dumber the running of things will be.

  14. Excellent work Mr. Stossel!

    Most of the money spent on that bathroom was for government employee compensation.

    It's a great example of why government should be limited to protecting us from others that'd harm us . Government is already bad in that we use government force to pay for it, so should be minimized.

  15. An efficient state is fortunately just a nightmare fantasy. We should be happy to see tax money being flushed down the toilet; just think of all the depredations against the people to which taxes are usually employed. Too bad they don't cost ten million.

  16. I would like to see an actual, detailed investigation of the project instead of this broad-brush 'gobment/unions is just so bad' stuff. The money is going somewhere. It won't hurt the libertarian cause to expose the facts here. It might even lead to some impovement.

  17. What I wouldn't give to have a moustache like that. Absolutely love Stossel. His videos are hit to the heart.

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  19. This is a real game-changer for NYC people, as a constructor, I would suggest the planner to install Toto or American Standard Toilets. These are the top class toilets in the market.

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