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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

VIEW FROM AMERICA: N.Y. Mayor Should Try Life on Streets




Suppose New York City's Rudy Giuliani had to go sleep in a homeless shelter.


I'll admit, it's one of those too-good-to-be-true outcomes that only occurs in a Dan Aykroyd movie. But seriously, all he'd have to do is have some bad luck, lose his income, his well-connected friends, and suffer a chronic mental or physical disability only slightly more severe than the egomaniacal personality disorders that already afflict him.


Then set him loose with a five-dollar bill in one of the most expensive housing markets on Earth. It is not at all hard to imagine such a notoriously difficult and irritating man quickly wearing out his welcomes with the few friends who'd still put up with him. Can anybody think of a more obnoxious in-law to have wallowing and snoring on the living room sofa?


If everyone else resorted to ear plugs, he'd harangue the family dog and, worse, fail to see any remote connection between his plight and the fate of people who end up in homeless shelters.


Yes, you get a pretty good idea of what Giuliani's wife has had to put up with all these years.


The idea of Giuliani in urine-soaked rags may be an immensely satisfying fantasy, but it doesn't even approach the movie-script excess of the armed raids staged recently by the Giuliani regime on the city's homeless shelters. These produced the arrests and incarceration of 129 unfortunate people, all but six of whom were guilty only of not having answered summonses for minor crimes that included urinating in public and drinking on the subway. Both these practices are encouraged at bar carts and in toilets on comfortable suburban trains but criminalized in the facilities of the city's Transit Authority.


Staged on one of the coldest nights of the year, the raids maximized the chances of finding an expanded pool of shivering victims. One sweep was conducted at the Fort Washington Armory, which is reserved for the mentally ill, an often confused and forgetful population you might expect to have an elevated rate of ignoring a summons. If he'd stopped and frisked the entire population of a single rush-hour subway train, couldn't Giuliani have found the same percentage of "fugitives" from justice?


In Mussolini's Rome, trains ran on time. There are today German cities, models of civic order, where you can be arrested for yelling in the streets, where jaywalking is unknown. In Tokyo, you can see pedestrians on a Sunday, meekly obeying "don't walk" signs when there is not a car in sight. In Singapore, they'll arrest you for chewing gum.


All these cities have two things in common: They do not have a pathologically histrionic mayor who makes arresting people seem like a gleeful game; and they are not New York. Any city forced into such molds of suffocating conformity, its very art museums purged, its sidewalk vendors chased, its educators intimidated, its homeless harassed, its streets a theater of mass obedience, its government authoritarian in nature and attitude, might be bearable.


But what unforgiving tyrant would recognize it as New York?


Robert Reno writes for Newsday where this originally appeared.