An Ordinary Citizen’s
Bill of Rights

New York City has approximately 70,000 bums—the size of a small army—which we might consider sending to help out Ukraine in lieu of continuing our giveaway of billions in aid and weaponry. 

Instead, because, apparently, those bums don’t already have enough rights compared to the rest of us, the New York City Council, with Mayor Eric Adams’ signature on the dotted line, recently passed a “Homeless Bill of Rights” to give them some more.

Sponsored by New York’s “Public Advocate” Jumaane Williams—whose life’s mission, contrary to his misleading title, is to advocate not for the general public but for thugs, bums, and derelicts and to be a perpetual thorn in the side of all of those who think living in a city that is safe, sane, and sanitary is a worthwhile goal—the Bums’ Bill of Rights accomplishes such things as setting forth their right to a city-funded shelter, including one consistent with their preferred gender identity (no, that’s not a joke), codifying their right to sleep on the city’s streets, as though they needed an invitation, and reminding them of their right to vote . . . because, of course, we want the input of people who contribute nothing to our society, pay no taxes, live off of the hard work of others, and make our lives just a little more miserable each and every day, to have an influence on public policy.

To those of us who live in this city and actually use its streets and subways—unlike the hereditary caste of limousine liberals that assuages its guilt at having inherited wealth by making a conspicuous show of promoting policies that coddle druggies, bums, and criminals and make cities generally unlivable — the Bums’ Bill of Rights is just another slap in the face, another reminder of all the rights ordinary citizens don’t have because they are always the city’s last priority. What, we might wonder, would our municipal Bill of Rights look like if we could ever take our cities back from the activist chieftains who lord over them on their tribe’s behalf?

The Ordinary Citizen’s Bill of Rights might look something like this:

  1. We have the right to a reasonably clean and orderly city and to be free of individuals who litter, urinate, and defecate in public spaces. 
  2. We have the right to walk the streets without having to dodge bums splayed out on the sidewalks or psychos and drugged-out zombies teetering toward us. 
  3. We have the right to streets, subways, and other public spaces that do not play host to homeless encampments or open drug scenes. 
  4. We have the right to park benches and seats on public transportation free of semi-permanent occupants spreading trash, filth, and mephitic odors all around them. 
  5. We have the right to be free of noise pollution caused by thugs who refuse to use headphones, of cigarette smoke on buses, trains and stations, and of the stench of marijuana in all public places. 
  6. We have the right to service workers willing and able to make malingerers and miscreants move on, who are charged with summoning law enforcement to the scene when they are needed to grapple with situations that may be more volatile. 
  7. We have the right not to be accosted by aggressive panhandlers who invade our space or even make physical contact with us, refuse to move along after their requests are ignored or declined, threaten us, curse at us or besiege us when we are eating in a restaurant or sitting on public transportation. 
  8. We have the right, when we are out in public, to never see indecent displays of a lewd or sexual nature and, unless we are on a beach or at a public pool, we have the right never to see people who are shirtless or whose undergarments or nether regions are substantially visible. 
  9. We have the right to have criminal laws and regulations enforced such that fare-beaters, shoplifters, vandals, and all violators of sanitation codes are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. 
  10. If we are threatened, such that we have a reasonable apprehension of bodily harm, so long as law enforcement officers are not immediately available to assist, we have the right to defend ourselves and those around us.

The Ordinary Citizen’s Bill of Rights is aspirational, obviously. We are not expecting miracles. We are not expecting our streets and public transportation hubs, trains and stations to be cleansed of all litter and human trash overnight, nor are we expecting people grown used to the city’s indifference in the face of criminal conduct to realize immediately that things have changed. Such transitions in mores take time.

Those of us who lived through the halcyon years of Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg in New York City watched the signs of decline accumulate gradually and then suddenly under the incompetent and malevolent Mayor Bill de Blasio. Day by day, month by month, and year by year, we watched shoplifters, turnstile jumpers, and smokers in the subways try out their infractions with furtive, tentative looks over their shoulders, and we watched other would-be shoplifters, turnstile jumpers, and smokers watching as well, beginning to realize that the city itself was no longer watching, that the next generation of miscreants could dispense with the furtiveness and the tentativeness and do their deeds out in the open, with impunity.

It took all of de Blasio’s disastrous eight-year reign for the sky to fall, for crime to spike again and for the filth, disorder, thuggery, and vagrancy to rise to its present-day fever pitch.

And so, just as it took years for our hard-won good habits to degenerate into bad ones, it will take years for us to learn once again that actions have consequences and that the rights of ordinary, law-abiding citizens who are the backbone of our society, as of every society, actually matter more than the rights of thugs, bums, and criminals. What we want is a good-faith effort.

Mayor Eric Adams has said and done many things right, increasing police presence in the subway, posting security guardsalbeit symbolic security guards—at subway exit doors to discourage potential fare evaders and making efforts to institutionalize those bums who are so psychotic—whether as a result of drug abuse, mental illness, or drug-induced mental illness—as to pose a danger to themselves or others.

But as a black mayor in a city destabilized by violent, hateful anti-cop, pro-chaos Black Lives Matter rhetoric, he is uniquely positioned to do far more to turn back the tide and establish a new, broader consensus coalescing around the basic right to a sane, safe, clean, and orderly city in which everyone of every race and origin can thrive. Enacting the Ordinary Citizen’s Bill of Rights as an ideal to strive toward would be a good start.

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About Alexander Zubatov

Alexander Zubatov is a practicing attorney specializing in general commercial litigation. He is also a practicing writer specializing in general non-commercial poetry, fiction, essays, and polemics that have been featured in a wide variety of publications. He lives in the belly of the beast in New York, New York. He can be found on Twitter @Zoobahtov.

Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images