Ignoring human misery is an art form for many New Yorkers, but according to NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, it's helpful, too. "My best advice to the citizens of New York City—if this is so upsetting to you, don’t give," Bratton told a reporter who asked about panhandlers yesterday. "One of the quickest ways to get rid of them is not to give to them. And so New Yorkers who are complaining so much about it, well, one of the things they can do is stop contributing to it."

The question posed by the reporter, Marcia Kramer, was less of an indictment of the lack of affordable housing for low-income New Yorkers and the filthy shelters run by greedhead slumlords, and more of a Waiter, there's a fly in my soup.

Question: Mr. Mayor, I’d like to show you and the commissioner a picture that was taken on Saturday night on Broadway and 68th Street. It’s a homeless person with two dogs, a cat, kitty litter, dog food, and I’m wondering why nobody said anything about it - the police or the city. 

After reminding Kramer that the homeless encampments across the city had been "dismantled by the NYPD, working with the Department of Homeless Services," he remarked that sometimes Undesirable New Yorkers had rights, too.

"There are other circumstances where, because of constitutional rights, the police cannot always remove someone—for example, someone begging in front of a deli cannot be removed. But when we see something that reaches the level of being a violation of law, NYPD moves in and acts."

Bratton added that he is training his subordinates in the "very fine nuances" of panhandling law.

Lynn Lewis, the executive director for Picture the Homeless, told us that she believes this question of constitutionality is "really not nuanced."

"People have the right to be in public space, whether they're homeless or whether they're Wall Street executives with suits on."

Lewis had an appropriate analogy for Bratton's suggestion that people stop giving to panhandlers.

"It's like people are pigeons: if you don't feed them, they wont be there, and so he is reducing our fellow New Yorkers, really your neighbors, to pests or eyesores."

She added, "until the mayor and his administration want to seriously address the housing crisis, you're going to see more New Yorkers on the streets, and on the subways, and in shelters."