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Already Paid For By City, Public Toilet Kiosks Sit Dormant In Warehouse

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Finding a public restroom in the city is no fun, but things might be a little easier if the automatic self-cleaning restrooms for which the city contracted hadn't been sitting in a Queens warehouse since George W. Bush was president.

As CBS2's Steve Langford reported, the answers remain a mystery as to why the toilets had been sitting there since the George W. Bush administration.

If you are looking for a public restroom in New York City, you will find a dozen of them by walking down an off-the-beaten-track lane toward a warehouse in an industrial section of Maspeth, Queens. They are automatic and self-cleaning, and they have been sitting there unused for about a decade.

"I think it's about time they get them installed," one woman said.

The public toilets are operated, or should be, by the JCDecaux company of France. But currently, there are only four of them installed on the streets of the city, and the one CBS2 found at Corona Plaza in Queens was not even working on Friday.

A vehicle from the Spanish-based company Cemusa that previously had a public bathroom contract with the city approached the out-of-order restroom when CBS2 was there, but the staffer inside did not want to talk to us and left the scene.

"They need to rectify that problem," a woman said. "I mean, people do need to use the restrooms."

Not counting New York City residents and those who work or visit every day, there are more than 50 million tourists who come to the city each year. At some point, just about all of them will be looking for a bathroom.

CBS2's Langford said when he worked in Paris, they had public toilets like this all over the French capital. And that was 30 years ago.

"It's ridiculous," one tourist from France said in French. "They have to be used, because in New York, there are very few public toilets."

But some New Yorkers think the whole idea of public bathrooms like the JCDecaux models is a lost cause anyway.

"In theory, it's a great idea, but in practice, I think these things get beat up and destroyed, vandalized and so forth," one man said.

The city Department of Transportation said finding locations to install the bathrooms has been challenging over the past 10 years due to access to utilities and community support.

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