New Yorkers were crossing their legs Tuesday in anticipation of a City Council hearing on a bill aiming to sow the seeds for more public bathrooms.
Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine joined Brooklyn Council Members Rita Joseph and Ari Kagan outside City Hall at noon on June 28, just prior to the council hearing, in order to highlight the need to let people go.
According to the elected officials, the city is facing a lavatory drought due to shuttered or completely removed public restrooms, leaving many unable to heed nature’s call. This drastic lack of bathrooms was exemplified during the worst days of the COVID-19 pandemic since many storefronts refused to allow patrons to use their bathrooms and even more public toilets seemed to be chained up.
“If you’ve ever been caught out there on the streets in New York City, and you had to go and there was no open restroom, or not one that was working that you could find, please raise your hand. Yes, indeed. We’re human beings. You’re not a New Yorker if you haven’t been caught out there at least once. It shouldn’t be this way. We’re here to say, New York City must do better for the sake of our public health, for equity, for dignity. We need more public bathrooms,” Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine said.
The aim is to identify prime locations in which to install self-cleaning restrooms–at least one in each zip code throughout the five boroughs. This is something Levine said can be done with ease since there are already a number of restrooms available clogging up space.
“There are 15 ready to go automated public bathrooms sitting in a warehouse in Queens. They’ve been there for years, waiting to be installed with the lack of will to get it done. So, we are going to force this issue,” Levine added.
For those supporting the bill, there is far more at stake here than simple access to a porcelain throne. It also concerns basic human rights such as providing a place to utilize feminine hygiene products, a location to change babies, and also access for the unhoused to use the bathroom.
“Making our city cleaner and more livable, is a non-bipartisan, common sense issue, whether you’re Republican, Democrat, whichever party you belong to using the bathroom doesn’t have any political affiliation,” Council Member Joseph said.
There are a few concerns, however. With areas in the city–such as the Garment District–becoming infamous for blatant public substance abuse, some are worried that these new bathrooms could be hijacked by drug users.
“I completely reject this. We do have a human rights crisis in New York City of a number of unhoused New Yorkers, and this problem is not going to make that worse. This problem will allow those New Yorkers the dignity of a place to go and that’s a win for everybody. That’s a win for the individual who was experiencing homelessness. It’s also better for the community. So, I reject the criticism that this is bad for quality of life,” Levine told amNewYork Metro.
Ticktock star Teddy Siegel, founder of Got2GoNYC, also joined the rally. She had been pushing for more public bathrooms over social media since she herself was unable to find one while in Times Square.
“I was inspired to create my account Got2GoNYC last year on July 15 after nearly peeing my parents in Times Square. After multiple establishments had turned me away. I made it to McDonald’s, and they allowed me to use the bathroom but only after I bought a water for $3. The bathroom didn’t even have a code. I thought to myself if only I had a resource that showed me where the bathroom was located,” Siegel said. “This is New York City, the greatest city in the world. Why are we ranked 93rd in the nation when it comes to bathrooms per capita? Why was a 27-year-old New York City resident forced to bleed through her pants at a CVS while holding a box of tampons she bought begging to use the restroom? Why does a 22-year-old camp counselor at Prospect Park have no choice but to change children in a bathroom where human feces was smeared on the walls and floors for days on end?”