N.Y. Penn Station Restrooms to Close for Makeover

Several months ago, NJ Transit officials were embarrassed when confronted with evidence that the restrooms on the NJT 7th Avenue concourse in New York’s Penn Station were in lamentable condition; the situation was brought to light by Albert Papp, Jr., former Lackawanna Coalition chair and president of the New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers.  Now the facilities will be refurbished, which will require them to close from January 2 through 16, according to reporting by Mike Frassinelli in the Star-Ledger (November 16).  Papp’s investigation had highlighted faucets that didn’t work, duct tape holding up toilet paper dispensers, and missing soap dispensers, among other shortcomings.  Temporary repairs swiftly followed Papp’s disclosures.

Repairs are also under way at restrooms in Newark’s Penn Station; in this case, however, complete closure will not be required.  In New York, while the restrooms are closed, the nearest open facilities are on the Long Island Rail Road (lower) level, accessible by escalator; there are also Amtrak restrooms in the northwest section of the upper level, near 8th Avenue.

Hoboken Waiting Room Closed—Restrooms Open

NJT has announced that the waiting area in the main waiting room at Hoboken will be closed for several months starting Monday, October 7, at 9 a.m.; restrooms will remain open, with alternative access.  Since the waiting room was flooded in Hurricane Sandy almost a year ago, the historic benches have been closed, with alternative seating provided; this new closure presumably will allow the eventual reopening of the entire historic waiting room.

Hoboken Recovery: Restrooms to Reopen

It’s been almost 10 months since Hurricane Sandy devastated NJ Transit’s operations.  Nearly all trains have since returned, but at the railroad’s iconic Hoboken terminal, things are far from normal.  The storm flooded the main waiting room and its restrooms have been out of service ever since; passengers are directed to hard-to-find replacements.  For months, the only “facilities” were on a parked train.

NJT has now announced the reopening of the restrooms as of Monday, August 19, according to reporting  by Mike Frassinelli in the Star-Ledger (August 15).  However, the restoration is not complete: the waiting room will be shut down for about 8 weeks starting about October 1 to restore its historic wooden benches and woodwork.  The benches are currently covered, pending the restoration work.  During the closure, NJT said, arrangements will be made to ensure access to the restrooms, which are inside the waiting room, and incentives will be offered to the contractors to get the work done before the onset of winter, when the heated waiting room becomes a real necessity.

NJT Restroom Stinks, Riders Say

One problem faced by NJT rail riders is finding clean restrooms before, during, and after their journeys.  Few stations have toilet facilities at all, outside of major terminals; those that do are often closed outside of commuting hours; and toilets on-board trains are legendary places to be avoided if at all possible.  Even some major terminals such as Newark Broad Street close their toilets at night, and Hoboken has made do with temporary facilities since Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.

One place riders can count on finding an open restroom has been at New York Penn Station, where Amtrak, Long Island Rail Road, and NJ Transit all maintain restrooms—but how good are they?  NJT has the newest restrooms, in its 7th Avenue Concourse, but the quality of those facilities was brought into sharp focus at NJT’s July 12 Board meeting by rider Albert Papp, Jr., who is director of the NJ Association of Railroad Passengers and past Chair of the Lackawanna Coalition.  Papp first brought to the attention of NJT in June the deplorable condition of the NJT restrooms, citing missing soap dispensers, water in the sinks that doesn’t flow, and toilet paper dispensers held up by duct tape.  Apparently, little or no action was taken, so Papp brought up the issue again at the board meeting, according to reporting by Mike Frassinelli (Star-Ledger, July 12).  According to Frassinelli’s report, both NJT Executive Director Jim Weinstein and State Transportation Commissioner Jim Simpson were red-faced with anger and embarrassment at the report of the persistent problems.  Weinstein vowed action, and Simpson, told that a third party maintains the facilities, said, “Well, fire the third party. Tell the third party that if this happens again—can them and find somebody else.”  Rider Papp was not impressed, noting that NJT was going ahead with a plan to offer Wi-Fi access: “While you can go ahead and put Wi-Fi in the trains for the thumb people, it would help if some of the basic necessities of the human individual are attended to,” he said.  And passenger Shelia Long, told that NJT has a person responsible for maintenance of the area, said, “I think he’s in Dunkin” Donuts.”

LATEST: Near-Full Service March 24

New timetables effective March 24 for all NJ Transit heavy-rail services restored most service that was still reduced after Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.  Some trains are still missing, notably 3 daily round trips between Bay Head and Hoboken on the North Jersey Coast Line and some runs to Waldwick on the Main/Bergen lines.  On the Morris & Essex Lines, a number of Gladstone and Dover trains to and from Hoboken have not resumed.  (Schedules were reissued on June 2; some changes may have been made, but we have not yet analyzed the new schedules.)  Weekend service on all lines is back to normal, with the exception of an early-morning round trip between Dover and Hoboken on the M&E.

The resumption of service was made possible by restoration of electric traction power into the Hoboken terminal; damage to a substation had restricted Hoboken to diesel-powered trains since the storm.  Most customers will find their pre-Sandy service restored, although there are notable exceptions because of the still-missing trains.  North Jersey Coast Line riders from beyond Long Branch will continue to find fewer trains and longer gaps.  On the M&E, the lack of an early-morning weekend train from Hoboken will affect commuters to jobs from the New York area; and there remain unacceptable gaps in service on the Gladstone Branch, including no outbound trains (beyond Murray Hill) between 2:40 and 4:27 p.m. on weekdays.  Returning, the 8:50 p.m. departure from Gladstone for Hoboken is also missing; since the preceding train does not take passengers at Gladstone, there is an astounding gap at Gladstone station (only) of nearly 5 hours, roughly from 5 to 10 p.m.

PATH resumed full normal service on March 1; this restores service to World Trade Center and Exchange Place on weekends.  Since all lines were operating on weekdays, full service has been restored.

NYC Transit resumed through train service to the Rockaways (A Train) on May 30, after an absence of 7 months since Hurricane Sandy.  However, they also announced a plan for an extensive closing of the Montague Street Tunnel (R Train) to complete repairs and strengthen defenses against future flooding.

NJ Transit reopened the Hoboken terminal building late on Monday, January 28.  The building had been closed for some time after contamination due to the Hurricane Sandy flooding was discovered.  Karen Rouse of The Record of Bergen County reported on Friday evening (Jan. 25) that Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen) pressured NJT to provide temporary shelter, toilets, and running water for customers within 3 business days, or he would call a legislative hearing.  The report was formerly to be found at http://www.northjersey.com/news/NJ_Transit_to_reopen_Hoboken_Terminal_on_Tuesday.htmlNJT announced Tuesday’s re-opening at 5:34 on Friday afternoon, according to Rouse.

The waiting room bears little resemblance to the pre-Sandy facilities, as much of the room is still walled off, the rest rooms are closed, and a limited amount of plastic seating is provided. For restrooms, use the train parked on Track 8 for that purpose, which is also warm and comfortable.