Updated Jan. 9, 2018: Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed off on Councilman Espinal's bill requiring all public bathrooms in NYC to have diaper changing tables. It will go into effect July of this year.
"As a Dad, I know first-hand how frustrating it can be to handle diaper emergencies in public without a changing station," De Blasio said in a statement. "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 fairer place to live."
Parents and caretakers deserve a safe and clean place to carry out diaper duty. Join us as we sign the bill for cha… https://t.co/Q1OQ2Eb1KY— Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) January 9, 2018
Original Story Dec. 11, 2017: When New York City Councilman Rafael Espinal (D-Brooklyn) saw a father changing his baby’s diaper over a mall bathroom sink, it triggered two things: concern and a big yet rather simple idea.
He noticed that men's public restrooms were not as equipped for childcare, and even still, women's rooms, though more likely to have changing tables, weren't required to — and this put the health and safety of babies in jeopardy. The solution was obvious: put tables in all bathrooms.
Espinal began to advote for legislation ensuring that, when duty calls, any parent can change their child's diaper worry-free. As a result, a bill requiring all public restrooms to have appropriate changing tables was passed by the New York City Council Monday morning. Buildings affected by this legislation include movie theaters, coffee shops and restaurants, and Espinal suspects it will go into effect by early spring.
In the past, there have been failed attempts to pass similar laws. In 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed two bills that would have made changing tables more accessible to men in public spaces, Huffington Post reports.
Famous faces like Ashton Kutcher even stepped in, fronting a Change.org petition the following year for large retailers to take on this proposition. "Changing tables in men's rooms will be a tiny step in the long process of rectifying the legacy of gender discrimination, but it's a step we need to take," Kutcher wrote. "Dads, like myself, want to participate equally in the child care process and our society should support that." The petition received over 100,000 signatures.
In 2016, President Obama signed the Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation Act that requires changing tables in federal building bathrooms open to the public, such as in post offices, courthouses and Social Security offices.
However, Espinal was ahead of the game — he went to work on passing this NYC bill almost two years ago. He told Metro that the bill was met with "little resistance and a lot of support [because] in reality, it is a real issue that parents are dealing with."
There is no doubt that gender roles in modern-day families are shifting significantly, and fathers are stepping up when it comes to childcare. According to Pew Research, men are spending almost triple the amount time on childcare today than they did back in 1965. On average, they devote about 7 hours per week to such duties (which is still eight hours less than their female partners). The Pew Research shows, though, that fathers feel like they can be doing more, and they are just as likely as mothers to say parenting is important to their identity (57% and 58% respectively).
Espinal, 33, doesn’t have kids but told Metro he thought it was an important bill to pass because "it will take the responsibility off of women and place equal balance on men."
"Dads should be on diaper duty just as must as moms are," he said, "and we need to make sure public spaces are able to accommodate that." And what better city to trailblaze forward than New York, New York?