CORONA, Queens — You might think public urination is someone else’s problem, until someone does it in front of your house.
Imagine how we felt after we caught a man relieving himself first on our PIX11 microwave truck, and then on the street.
The topic stinks, really.
But public urination is now being poured into the ongoing debate over whether it’s time to decriminalize that, and other low-level offenses that currently lead to fines, a court appearance, if not an arrest.
Both Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton are on the same page, saying urinating in public is simply not allowed.
“A number of the initiatives that have been put forward – whether it’s fare evasion, public urination, open containers of alcohol – these are things where police need the power of the criminal law to effectively stop and deal with the person. But to decriminalize – I’m sorry, you just open the Pandora’s box,” said Commissioner Bratton.
In Corona Queens, this undocumented Jamaican immigrant, who we’ll call Daniel, was brave enough to admit his brush with the law.
“I was coming home drunk. And when you drunk you urinate a lot. And basically I had to take a leak at a tree, the cops. They told me not to do that anymore,” he said.
If Daniel had been ticketed, he would face either a guilty plea and a $50 fine, or a court appearance to defend himself, risking his illegal immigration status.
Local tutor Lionel Bourjolly, who works here in Corona, says based on what he sees, public urination is the end result of a bigger problem.
“The real causes are underlying. Underemployment. Unemployment. And it’s especially tough for an immigrant community - because they have fewer resources to rely on. These people have a tenuous hold on society, alright? They don’t have good jobs, they don’t’ have good housing, and they’re just trying to survive,” said Bourjolly.
We don’t want you to think the problem of people taking a classic sidewalk siesta, is just a black, brown, or working, lower class problem.
Manhattan based attorney Jason Stern says a full third of his practice involves public urination cases.
You might be surprised to hear what kind of clients he represents.
“My clientele is primarily made up of three groups. One would be out of towners - tourists, college students, and the other group is white collar professionals. Doctors, accountants, advertising executive…somebody who works on Wall Street,” said Stern.