By Gina Martinez
New York City dads will now have the opportunity to change their babies’ diapers in public buildings.
This week, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a bill that requires new or recently renovated public buildings to provide diaper-changing stations in all restrooms, ensuring that all parents have access to these stations regardless of their gender identity.
The bill, sponsored by Councilman Rafael Espinal (D-Brooklyn), will make New York City one of the first cities in the nation to make this enforcement in new or recently renovated buildings, a move de Blasio believes further solidifies the city as a national leader in improving gender equity.
“As a dad, I know firsthand how frustrating it can be to handle diaper emergencies in public without a changing station,” the mayor said. “This new law will ensure that all parents will have access to these stations in public buildings regardless of their gender, and help make New York City a fairer place to live.”
The bill, which goes into effect in July, requires that diaper-changing stations be available to everyone regardless of gender identity on any floor where public restrooms are available in gathering spaces or spaces where merchandise is sold. These locations include theaters, bowling alleys, shopping malls and museums.
This requirement will apply only to new construction or locations with substantial renovations. Enforcement of the law will be complaint-based, and the civil penalties for failing to comply will range from $300 to $1,600.
Chirlane McCray, the city’s first lady, serves as co-chairwoman of the Commission on Gender Equity, an agency that reviews policies and their impact on women, transgender and intersex individuals and men “in order to achieve greater gender fairness in the city.” She said this bill is an important step toward making New York City more family-friendly for all parents, regardless of gender.
“Too often, fathers and gender non-conforming parents are excluded from the resources aimed at supporting families,” she said. “That has to change. I am proud that this administration has emphasized equity, and put the experiences and needs of all families front and center from the very beginning.”
Laura McQuade, the president of Planned Parenthood of New York City, said the bill recognizes that families come in all forms.
“No one should have to struggle to find a place to change their child’s diaper when they’re not at home because of their gender,” she said. “Parenting isn’t the responsibility of just one gender, and it’s time our laws caught up with people’s daily lives. This is another step toward ensuring that New Yorkers have access to the resources they need to care for their families.”
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart