My First Bloomberg Feature Is on NYC’s Public Toilet Shortage

My first-ever Bloomberg feature story just came out today on CityLab, Will New York City Finally Get More Public Bathrooms? 🚽 (no paywall. no paywall! no paywall!!!)

This was sparked by the fact that every time I was with friends walking around in New York City, there was literally no way to find a bathroom other than paying for a drink at a cafe, praying for lavatories that don’t need a code to unlock, making detours to department stores or markets, or just winging it by striding confidently into a hotel. And for those who know, I drink A LOT of water. So I had to find out why on earth there were so few toilets in one of the most expensive and populous cities in the world, and if at all Covid has changed the state of the loo in NYC.

And once I started digging into this, I found some really shocking statistics:

  • There were more public bathrooms in New York City in 1940 than there are today.
  • NYC ranks 93rd in the US for public bathrooms per capita.
  • There are only 1103 public toilets across all five boroughs (Manhattan, Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island).
  • If you do the math, for a city of 8.4 million, there is only one bathroom for every 7000~ New Yorkers (not including the 60 million or so tourists who visit each year). To put things in perspective, the United Nations standard for refugee camps is to provide 1 toilet for every 20 people.
  • AND ALL THESE GOT WORSE DURING COVID.

The history of public toilets is also fascinating, paralleling fights for social justice and the decline of the government — from racially segregated bathrooms in the Jim-Crow era US South to the ongoing debate over transgender access to toilets today. And since the Victorian age, fewer stalls for women have been built compared to urinals for men, originally to discourage women from venturing out of the home. I touch on all these and more in the story.

There’s also a QuickTake video where I speak on-cam in front of a bathroom (hahaha) and also interview TikTok bathroom influencer @got2gonyc and Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine.

So please give it a read and share with your friends who might feel keenly about this topic (e.g. people who visit/live in NYC)!!! Enjoy and as always would love to hear any thoughts : )

And if you’d like to get instant email updates whenever a Bloomberg story of mine comes out, follow here. 🍀

❤️

3 thoughts on “My First Bloomberg Feature Is on NYC’s Public Toilet Shortage

  1. Catherine says:

    Gotta say “Tiktok bathroom influencer” are words I never thought I’d read… huge congrats on the amazing feature, and loved this read too!!

    Like

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