‘Desperate’ opera singer puts public toilets on the New York map

Teddy Siegel outside her favourite place to spend a public penny in Bryant Park, New York
Teddy Siegel outside her favourite place to spend a public penny in Bryant Park, New York

A New Yorker incensed by the city’s lack of public toilets has shot to fame after creating an intricate map of hundreds of facilities across the five boroughs.

Opera singer Teddy Siegel, 24, started her meticulous mapping two years ago after she desperately needed the loo in Times Square but could not find anywhere to go.

“I was in tears begging to use the restroom, and at this point, I was really desperate,” she told The Telegraph.

The then-graduate student ended up spending $3 in McDonalds to be able to use their facilities. But when Ms Siegel raced upstairs, the toilet was unlocked, meaning she could have used it for free.

“I started thinking more about how it’s so ridiculous that I just spent my money in order to complete a basic bodily function and frankly, human right,” she said.

Ms Siegel filmed a short video for TikTok about her experience and woke up the next day to find it had 14,000 views. The comments began filling up with people sharing their tips on where to find facilities in the city, and Ms Siegel began plotting them on the map. She made it shareable and enabled it to be edited by anyone so now it is crowd sourced and can be updated in real time.

From public parks to luxury hotels, almost 1,800 toilets have now been features and it offers users a detailed guide of services nearby.

Ms Siegel, of Long Island, and her brand Got2GoNYC has now amassed 370,000 followers across TikTok and Instagram.

The toilet influencer also makes videos in which she invites followers to “come pee with me” in various locations which receive up to 5 million views.

She will also rate the facilities out of 10, factoring the cleanliness, whether it is wheelchair accessible and the quality of toilet paper.

Meanwhile, she claims that her map is the most shared and most used on Google Maps in the world.

“What I love about it is because it is crowd sourced, it gets updated in real time”, she said.

“Because of that, it becomes even more accurate, because then the people are going into places and finding out, ‘oh, that’s the code switch, and then they can go in and update it for everyone else to see’.”

There are around 1,200 public toilets across the city for a population of 8.4million. It ranks 93rd in the US for public bathrooms per capita.

Blocked toilets

Four mayoral administrations tried to increase the number of toilets across the city with little success.

In 2006, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a plan to install 20 automated public toilets. Only five have been installed, with the remaining 15 still in a Queens warehouse.

Since starting her toilet crusade, Ms Siegel helped Mark Levine, the Manhattan borough president, pass a bill which requires the city to identify “feasible” sites for public bathrooms in every ZIP code in the city. There is no requirement for any more toilets to be built.

Brooklyn city council member Sandy Nurse is also trying to introduce a bill which would compel the city to increase the number of toilets from one per 7,700 population to 1/2,000, adding more than 4,200 toilets by 2035. She said the current facilities are very sparse and it is “kind of wild” how few toilets there are in New York.

“Access to bathrooms is crucial for everyone,” she said.

Meanwhile, Ms Siegel says her favourite toilet is in Bryant Park in Midtown.

“It’s not much to look at from the outside, but on the inside, it’s literally stunning.

“They have bathroom attendants constantly there and cleaning. There’s fresh flowers. As soon as you walk in, they play classical music. There’s art on the walls, but my favourite part is that it has self-changing toilet seat covers.”