The Real Deal New York

Are public bathrooms NYC’s next big infrastructure project?

Citations are up and activist groups are calling for major reform

January 30, 2016 03:00PM

Ladies-Room-vintage

With 20,000 to 30,000 citations for public urination issued each year by the NYPD, it’s becoming clear that NYC has an infrastructure problem.

Most of the city’s public lavatories are in subway stations and parks. But they are poorly kept and often locked. There are only three public pay toilets spread across the five boroughs.

“Public toilets are as essential a part of street infrastructure as streetlights,” Carol McCreary of PHLUSH (Public Hygiene Lets Us Stay Human) told Atlas Obscura. “They need to be part of the same package, and the fact that they’re not makes no sense.”

Other groups like Safe2Pee are also lobbying for change.

Unlike many other world cities, like London and Berlin, NYC never put any real money behind building and keeping up public restrooms. Critics counter that public restrooms attract crime, but of course, the real issue is money, both for real estate and upkeep. Essentially, public restrooms are money pits.

The city’s most recent answer has been to move toward downgrading public urination from a misdemeanor to a lesser violation. But activist groups hope for a more humanitarian answer. [Atlas Obscura] —Christopher Cameron

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