Public Urination is NO longer a Criminal Offense in NYC
Not to say it’s one of the most shining examples of New York City’s elegance, but it’s certainly one of the most common; pissing in public. Now, to me, no venture in New York is complete without someone urinating on the outside of a bodega wall, or a subway stop, or (for the most experienced) in a garbage can. Although I do see public defecation from time to time, pissing is on everyone minds, and the government of New York City has finally done something about it.
For a long time, public urination, littering, and drinking in public were offenses that would be directed to criminal court. New Yorkers have been victims of this criminal justice system thanks to the Tough-On-Crime “broken windows” laws the Giuliani administration issued during the 90’s and early 2000’s. These seemingly small offenses had the ability to land people in prison for excessive amounts of time and have bails set high enough that lower income folks couldn’t afford them. Most of whom were minorities! Now thanks to a series of reform bills the City Council passed last week these low-level offenses have been moved to civil court. Known as the Criminal Justice Reform Act, the city is altering the penalties for low-level offenses, and hopefully, according to City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverto, the act “…will prevent tens of thousands of people from getting a criminal record for low-level, non-violent offenses…”.
Since taking the mayoral-ship, Bill de Blasio has had a shaky ride improving the city’s criminal justice system from his predecessors. He appointed a Giuliani-Era Police commissioner Bill Bratton bringing him back to the job and the mayor has also been hiring more cops. Yet, he has enacted a supervised release program for low-risk defendants. This has been largely unpopular with the NYPD since the 2014 cop killings. Considering the very likely chance that he will sign the Criminal Reform Act, this public piss situation is making it look like he knows which side he’s finally on.
I have done a bit of digging on public pissing in other major cities. Some may have already placed open air urinals like in San Francisco (has anyone used this in Dolores Park? Rate it out of 5 stars?), while others are still handing out hefty $300 fines like Philadelphia. Christ, in Boston you can be convicted as a sex offender if you’re caught whizzing in the wild. It is obvious that public urination is a real testing ground for how cities police their citizens. Should the government, local and state, fine crimes such as these to appear “tough on crime” and scare citizens into not committing said crimes? Or should these crimes be lowered so a disproportionate amount of disadvantaged people aren’t sent to prison?
The lowering of these crimes is making New York City join the ranks of San Francisco. In these cities, the urine is as appreciated as the people who trot the streets trying to find a way to purge their bladders, as quickly and as safely as the public will let them.
Because seeing someone piss in public is a part of the culture we live in.