Press Statements

VOCAL-NY Commends Expansion of NYC Public Restrooms, a Step Towards Restoring Dignity to Those Experiencing Homelessness

June 4, 2024

CONTACT: Mariah McGough,


Restricting Access to Public Restrooms is a Quality-Of-Life Issue Often Used to Criminalize Individuals Experiencing Homelessness

NEW YORK — Yesterday, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation announced it will build 46 new restrooms and renovate 36 existing restrooms, a step towards ensuring NYC’s public health infrastructure is equitable for the most marginalized New Yorkers. In response, VOCAL-NY released the following statement, attributable to Elizabeth Mackey, a leader with VOCAL-NY’s Homelessness Union:

“Everyone should be Free to Pee. No matter where we go, there should be a restroom that all New Yorkers should be able to use, whether it be the subway stations, parks, municipal offices, or restaurants. No one should have to purchase something just to use a bathroom or be penalized for the lack of available bathrooms. This should be a human right! We will continue to fight for a public bathroom infrastructure throughout the city that will allow us to guarantee cleaner and healthier communities for all.” 


The announcement comes after the New York City Council passed Int. 576, which requires the Department of Parks and Recreation to report on the conditions and functionality of NYC’s public restrooms under its jurisdiction and publicize this data via an online portal.

Access to public restrooms makes for healthier and cleaner communities. Yet, there is only 1 public restroom per 7,500 residents in New York, and only two are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The city’s restriction of access to public restrooms is a quality-of-life issue that has historically been used to criminalize individuals experiencing homelessness. As a result, this act of discrimination against unsheltered people continues to impact all facets of humanity and community. 

To adequately address this public health crisis, New York City must fully invest and commit to establishing a robust public bathroom infrastructure for all New Yorkers, regardless of zip code. We can begin to lay the foundation for this infrastructure by passing the following pieces of legislation in the NYC Council: 


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