The Metropolitan Transportation Authority wants to reopen dozens of bathrooms at subway stations across the city, but transit gurus are unsure how to unlock the public loos while keeping them safe and clean.
“We’re having an internal conversation at the moment about the best way to go about reopening those restrooms and how we should open them or how they should be used going forward,” said New York City Transit interim president Sarah Feinberg at MTA’s June 23 monthly board meeting. “We would like to open the restrooms as quickly as possible.”
Feinberg, who oversees the city’s subways and buses, said the agency wants to first address issues that predated the pandemic, such as vandalism, drug use, and people experiencing homelessness setting up living quarters inside the restrooms.
“I don’t want to put a lock on the door, I don’t want to require someone to have to get a key, I don’t want to go through these other machinations that other agencies do and that other businesses do,” she said. “But we also want to make sure that if we’re providing access to restrooms that it’s really in a safe way.”
MTA closed all of its active public bathrooms spread out over 76 stations — about 16 percent of the system — at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in an effort to stem the spread of the virus.
The move was particularly bad for unhoused New Yorkers who had few options to relieve themselves as other public bathrooms like those at libraries, restaurants, and soup kitchens closed during the viral outbreak, according to one homeless advocate.