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Dead Heads

Officially, Manhattan’s subway stations boast 28 public restrooms. But any commuter who believes that is going to end up pretty pissed off.

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Pedestrians welcomed the announcement last year that twenty freestanding public toilets will be built by 2007, courtesy of a company that will sell ads on the facilities’ exteriors. But according to the MTA, 28 subway stations in Manhattan (and 77 citywide) are currently restroom-equipped—and that doesn’t even include the developer-financed wonder bathroom at the Times Square station. Could urinary relief, seemingly so far away in 2007’s semi-privatized Utopia, already exist? In a word, no. In two words, “Eww . . . nasty.”

THE STATISTICS


39%
Could Not Be Located Reactions from agents at eleven allegedly equipped stations ranged from sympathy to confusion to anger. An agent at West 4th Street, when asked if there were any bathrooms in her station, said, “Yeah—they’re upstairs at the McDonald’s.”

29%
Closed for “Construction”
The MTA’s official list marks eight station bathrooms as “closed for construction.” One (Fulton St.) was operational; six were closed with no signs of impending reopening. A lone toolbox was sighted at the 86th Street 4/5/6 station.

29%
Exist in Varying States of Grossness
Eight stations boasted working men’s and women’s bathrooms, though MTA agents were usually unaware of their existence unless they were working in the booths most directly adjacent to the facilities. Conditions overall were grim. Details below.

3%
Locked for No Apparent Reason
Bathrooms at Union Square were locked on the day of our visit. Asked why, the agent said, “If they’re locked, there are people in there fixing stuff.” No one was observed entering or leaving the bathroom, and there was no noise coming from inside.

THE HIGHLIGHTS


A, C, E – 42nd Street
This station was the site of a sensational bathroom murder in 1936. On our visit, it was the site of a trash can brimming with used feminine-hygiene products.

A,C,E – 34th Street
Lacked soap, paper towels, and toilet paper.

A, C – Chambers Street
Toilet-paper rolls in the women’s bathroom were hung from a string tied to a railing. They were empty.

R, W – Whitehall Street
The sink in the women’s bathroom was filled with soot. Between two toilets was a single roll of toilet paper. It was set on the ground.

N, R – 59th Street
Hot, flooded, and generally swamplike conditions.

B, D, F, V – 34th Street/Herald Square
Lacked soap, paper towels, and toilet paper. But great access to shopping!

4, 5, 6 – Brooklyn Bridge
The only paper product available in the women’s bathroom was a pack of tissues left on the ground. It was empty.

4, 5 – Fulton Street
The station agent kindly asked our researcher if she needed toilet paper. When she answered in the affirmative, he responded that none was available.


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