Medium shot of man and lady toilet signs. Restroom funny signs hanged on the wooden red door. Men and women WC sign for the washroom

In 2019, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer released a report stating something that surprised practically no one: the city is sorely lacking in public restrooms and the ones that are available smell terrible. In the years since, only 34 park bathrooms have been renovated, out of more than 1,400 – and NYC currently ranks 93rd out of the 100 largest U.S. cities in public bathrooms per capita.

Beyond being an inconvenience, this constitutes a health and public safety issue. When restaurants, retailers and hotels closed during the pandemic, public-urination complaints across the city soared by 83%, according to an analysis by Crain’s New York Business. The scarcity of available public restrooms is a major issue for tourists away from their hotel, For-Hire Vehicle (FHV) drivers and really anyone away from home or the office.

Mayor Eric Adams has pledged to double a Parks Department budget that accounts for 0.5% of city spending. (Most cities spend from 1% to 4%.) But rather than address the problem head-on, the city is nudging businesses to open their lavatories to the public. In Jan., City Council required restaurants to open their bathrooms to delivery drivers – and last year, the council revised the plumbing code to force more businesses to make their restrooms available to almost everyone, starting in November. The code used to say most businesses must allow “employees, customers, patrons and visitors” to use their bathrooms, but that was amended to say restrooms must be open to “the public.” In response, members of the business community are pushing back, saying it’s the city that needs to step up and provide more clean, decent public bathrooms.

“If a business wants to provide access to their restroom voluntarily, that’s great, but the government should not start mandating this and should instead build public toilets around the city,” said Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance.

Amid the city’s hundreds of public bathrooms, two stand out as pleasant: Bryant Park and the High Line. That’s no accident. At both locations, maintenance is paid for with private money, and staff keep things spotless.

Source: Crain’s New York Business

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