NEW YORK — Clean public toilets are scarce in New York. Clean public anything is especially scarce in Times Square.
But this holiday season, toilet paper brand Charmin has built pristine public toilets, set to open Monday at a formerly empty warehouse in the middle of one the busiest intersections in the world. And they're free.
"We wanted to get our product into the hands of consumers, and we figured this was an innovative way of doing it," said Adam Lisook, assistant brand manager for Charmin.
Even amid the flashing lights and dizzying colors of Times Square, the toilets are hard to miss — there's a huge glowing blue sign with the word "Restrooms" and an arrow pointing down. Take the escalators upstairs to the lavish royal blue waiting room with flat-screen TVs tacked to the walls, a fireplace, a mini-dance floor for children, oversize teddy bears to play with and plush white couches.
There's a photo station with the Charmin teddy bear from the commercials. Parents can take pictures as they wait to use one of the 20 stalls.
The bathrooms are complete with white porcelain sinks and toilets, and a light overhead that tells visitors when a stall is open.
There are even theme rooms: Times Square, Wall Street, and one devoted to "Everybody Loves Raymond" star Doris Roberts, the celebrity spokeswoman for the event.
There will be about 30 workers hired to clean the stalls after each use, officials said.
"It's going to be so clean, as clean as your home," Lisook said. "It's Charmin's holiday gift to families who are visiting, and who are from New York."
The space is scheduled to open Monday afternoon. Hours are 8 a.m. until 11 p.m. seven days a week. The toilets will be closed on Christmas Day and must close, according to city rules, by Dec. 31. Officials haven't decided what to do after that with the space.
Charmin officials are anticipating more than 300,000 flushes, and about 43,200 rolls of toilet paper will be used.
Costs were considerable, but officials wouldn't say exactly how much — only that the project was second only to television advertising in terms of promotional expenses. Charmin is owned by Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble.