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Straphangers in need of relief will be happy to hear that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will begin reopening subway station restrooms in early 2023, as Streetsblog first reported on Monday. Thanks to the hiring of 800 new cleaners in recent months, public bathrooms at eight subway stations will reopen starting in January, with the transit agency gradually opening restrooms at additional stations. The subway system’s 133 public restrooms across 69 stations have been closed since March 2020 because of the pandemic.
Restrooms at five stations will reopen in January, with three more stations still to be determined, including 161st Street – Yankee Stadium, 14th Street – Union Square, Jay Street – MetroTech, Flushing – Main Street, and Fulton Street.
Some of the restrooms require immediate repairs before they can reopen, so there is no definite timeframe for the complete reopening of all restrooms, according to Streetsblog.
While restrooms at commuter rail stations like Atlantic Terminal, Penn Station, and Grand Central Terminal reopened nearly a year ago, transit officials have avoided the prospect of reopening subway station restrooms.
“It is not the M.T.A.’s priority, I have to be honest with you, to provide restrooms,” Janno Lieber, MTA chair, said to lawmakers in January 2022, as AMNY reported. “We are a transportation agency.”
Officials have expressed concerns over the lavatories being used for vandalism, drug use, and as a shelter for homeless New Yorkers. However, these public restrooms were one of the few options homeless people had to relieve themselves.
The MTA has also said a lack of transit workers is to blame for the delayed openings. The agency has made progress in rehiring over the past few months, with hundreds of new transit workers set to clean both trains and the newly opened restrooms.
New York City has long had a public restroom issue, with only 1,160 public restrooms available throughout the city for its eight million residents, according to the New York Times.
The MTA’s announcement comes as weekday subway ridership seems to be stuck around 60 percent of pre-pandemic levels. The reopening of the bathrooms is an attempt to return the system to normalcy.
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