New York

Going on the go: Opening a handful of subway station toilets is a very slow start to fixing a big problem


Twelve subway stations — including Flushing, naturally — will soon reopen their bathrooms to the traveling public. Don’t call them a dirty dozen: MTA brass promise that when the loos open their main doors and stall doors starting in May, they’ll feature re-grouted tiles, motion-activated faucets, new hand dryers and cleaning schedules to ensure they stay reasonably sanitary. The rechristenings will bring to 21 the total number of underground restrooms brought back online.

While we clap our hands under a blast of hot air at the progress, there remain far, far too few places for New Yorkers to relieve themselves.

Ready to go.

First, take the subways. Only 69 of the system’s 472 stations have bathrooms at all; all of those shuttered during COVID. As of May, a fraction of the fraction — at 4.4% of subway stations citywide — will be open. Their hours will be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., minus the hour from noon to 1, when they’ll understandably close for cleaning. What about all the folks who might have to go on the way to early morning work, or coming back from dinner or drinks or the club or the theater?

Above ground, the picture is possibly worse. New York City has paltry public restrooms per resident compared to other big cities. That, despite the fact that we have many more visitors and much more active street life. And those we do have are often poorly maintained.

Last month, the Adams administration announced it is acquiring five (count em: 5) prefabricated comfort stations for parks, which is welcome after years of delay but also counts as drop-in-the-toilet progress.

People of all backgrounds, of all ages, of all income levels, with disabilities and without them, get the sudden urge to go. This city, where urinating and defecating in public are rightly illegal (although the former is usually just punishable by civil summons), needs to give residents and visitors alike more clean, decent, free places to go. For heaven’s sake, our dogs can go almost anywhere they please.


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