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Going on the fly: 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 restrooms to the traveling public. Don’t call them a dirty dozen: MTA officials promise that when restrooms open their front doors and stall doors starting in May, they’ll feature grouted tiles, motion-activated faucets, new hand dryers, and cleaning schedules for ensure that it is kept reasonably hygienic. The rebrandings will bring the total number of underground toilets coming back online to 21.

As we applaud under a gust of hot air for progress, there are very, very few places left for New Yorkers to relieve themselves.

First, take the subway. Only 69 of the system’s 472 stations have toilets; all closed during COVID. Starting in May, a fraction of the fraction will be open, in 4.4% of metro stations across the city. Their hours will be 7am to 7pm, minus the hour of noon to 1, when they will understandably close to clean. What about all the people who might have to go to work early in the morning, or come back from dinner, drinks, club or theater?

On the ground, the image is possibly worse. New York City has negligible 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 the ones we have are often poorly maintained.

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

People of all backgrounds, of all ages, of all income levels, with and without disabilities, feel the sudden urge to go. This city, where urinating and defecating in public is legally illegal (although the former is usually only punishable by civil subpoena), must provide residents and visitors with cleaner, more decent, and free places to visit. For heaven’s sake, our dogs can go almost anywhere they please.

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