A Public Pot Worth Peeing In: Brighton’s Got The Best Public Toilet

Hazel Chatman, a worker for the city's parks department, in the bathroom on the boardwalk in Brighton Beach where she is the caretaker, and decorator.
Hazel Chatman, in her bathroom. (Source: NYTimes.com)

When I was just a lad, attending after-school instruction at Temple Beth Avahath Sholom (then in Bensonhurst, later replaced by condos) years before my bar-mitzvah, I made a discovery that has forever left me with feelings of inferiority.Women have much nicer bathrooms than men.

At the synagogue, the ladies’ room was actually two rooms. There was a couch, a chandelier. Potpour-freaking-ri.

We had a urinal falling off the wall, poor lighting, and an odor that gave me a very real sense of Jewish hell.

I soon discovered that this was common. Especially the couch thing. I don’t know why women get couches and men don’t. I’d say it’s because they get to escape us – but that gives us relief, too – and Lord knows that would never be done intentionally.

Anyway, the point is, Public Comfort Station 2 on the Brighton Beach boardwalk is apparently amazing. But only the ladies’ side. The New York Times, always focusing on the important things in Brooklyn, broke the story wide open on this one.

Inside Public Comfort Station 2 on the boardwalk in Brighton Beach, even the trash receptacles are clothed, their utilitarian metal covered in burgundy fabric. The sinks have pink skirts, too, while the mirrors wear garlands of silk flowers, the soap bottles dispense fruit-scented hand cleanser and plastic ferns stand in the corner.
Over the sinks and hand dryers hang laminated tributes to President Obama, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson and people who have died on the beach. Near one entrance hangs a rescued bamboo window blind covered in a brocade curtain, tassels and fake roses. R&B tunes play from a set of speakers. Everything is spotlessly clean.

A spotless public toilet? With a little R&B to get me in the mood for those rare moments when I have to, y’know, sit down on  a public toilet? Heaven…

And this is apparently all done on the dollar and will of one public employee, Hazel Chatman, who has been the bathroom’s summer caretaker for 16 years.

Ms. Chatman, a short, motherly woman who talks slowly and smiles readily, spends her eight-hour days mopping, wiping and beautifying her unassuming bathroom. She always wears the same thing to work: lilac nurse’s scrubs for her night job as a nurse’s aide, under a blue parks department shirt. Her motto, outlined in decorative signs, is “Live, laugh, love.”
… As a shrine to the dead and celebration of the living, the ladies’ room of Brighton Beach has become something of a center for the beach community. When the beach is sweltering, she brings the lifeguards bottles of water; when it rains, she sets up milk crates for them to sit on under the bathroom’s overhang. At 6:15 p.m., when the lifeguards go home and children are still running around unclaimed, Ms. Chatman looks after them while the police try to track down their parents.

The story, by the way, gives a little inkling as to why men’s rooms tend to suck. When she was briefly responsible for that side of the lavatory, she tried to pretty it up. And people stole everything.

Freakin’ men, am I right?

Anyway, way to go, Hazel Chatman. A public employee who truly deserves the spotlight.

Read the full Times story.