When duty calls it’s a call that can’t go unanswered, and we all know the unfortunate struggle of finding a public bathroom in NYC. People have even gone as far as creating a map of all the public bathrooms around the city to save you in those moments when you feel like you’re about to burst, but alas, when it comes to finding a bathroom the struggle is real.
Thankfully, the MTA is helping to fix this problem at least a little bit. According to Streetsblog, subway station bathrooms will begin reopening early in 2023 as the MTA works to reverse its pandemic-era decision to decline public access to restrooms for nearly three years.
The decision comes as a result of the hiring of 800 cleaners over the past two months, according to NYC Transit President Richard Davey.
“The lack of public bathrooms generally in New York City has been a question that folks have asked about and we hope to do our part,” Davey told Streetsblog. “We are absolutely completely obsessed and focused on customer satisfaction and obviously this will be another amenity that our customers will be able to avail themselves.”
The first wave of restroom openings will begin in January at eight stations, including:
- 161st Street-Yankee Stadium (B/D/4)
- 14th Street-Union Square (L/N/Q/R/W/4/5/6)
- Jay Street-MetroTech (A/C/F)
- Flushing-Main Street (7)
- Fulton Street (A/C/J/R/Z/2/3/4/5
Three more stations are still to be determined in this first wave.
These eight restrooms are only a fraction of the 133 total restrooms across 69 stations that were shuttered at the start of the Covid-19 outbreak in March 2020. The MTA unlocked the station restrooms about a year ago at its commuter rail hubs, including Penn Station, Atlantic Terminal, and Jamaica on the LIRR, as well as at Grand Central Terminal on the Metro-North Railroad.
Subway restrooms didn’t see as early of a reopening due to concerns regarding vandalism, illegal drug use, and other factors. MTA reps also reported not having the staff required to take care of the facilities as workers were concerned with the multi-million-dollar pandemic effort to disinfect train cars daily.
The new maintenance staff, however, will be unionized under an agreement with labor leaders, Davey said. Private security which were hired last month to target fare evasion will also now be responsible for keeping tabs on the toilets.
“They could be available for example if a customer went into a bathroom and saw something that was inappropriate, that the security officer could get NYPD or otherwise assist the customer,” Davey said.
As other public restrooms in city parks and libraries began allowing people back in and Covid protocols were dropped, advocates began pushing the agency to unlock the bathrooms, especially since these public restrooms were one of the few options the city’s homeless population could rely on.
“Every day that goes by without access to these facilities is another day that people are forced to sacrifice their dignity or risk their health,” said Jacquelyn Simone, policy director at the Coalition for the Homeless.
A handful of subway bathrooms will require more extensive repairs, and though it’s too soon to say when all 133 stalls and urinals will reopen, this first wave of openings is at least a start.
“We want to see how this goes, but the ideal would be to open all the restrooms at some point,” stated Davey.