Subway dancers sound off over crackdown

Advocate for street performers Matthew Christian, center, speaks

Advocate for street performers Matthew Christian, center, speaks to the media with other subway performance artists about the police crackdown on their craft in Manhattan, on Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014. (Credit: Yana Paskova)

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Subway dancers and crooners getting fined and arrested want the NYPD to lay off their transit show.

Several performers rallied at City Hall Tuesday against the NYPD's Broken Windows theory of policing that in the 1990s nabbed fare jumpers and vandals, but has since targeted performers and peddlers. Andrew Saunders, a LiteFeet dancer who performs under the name Goofy with a crew called The WAFFLE, said train performers have been targeted as their numbers have grown.

Saunders, 20, said he was arrested in 2013 and got a $100 fine for dancing on a train at Union Square but no longer performs in subways because he has moved on to other venues. He also wants to avoid getting arrested again.

"We've been getting arrested and hassled but our idea was to get off the train," he said.

He wants dancers to take their moves to station platforms and mezzanines, though he is skeptical they would be left alone.

"That's why I don't even want do it on the platform," he said. "I don't want to risk it because they don't read the rules."

The MTA deferred questions to the NYPD, which did not respond to request for comment.

The NYPD officials have been cracking down on subway performers this year, with 246 arrests of dancers as of late June; a special operation force that directly responds to rider complaints made 56 of those arrests.

Busking for donations without amplification on platforms is allowed, but transit rules do prohibit "conduct …which may cause or tend to cause annoyance, alarm or inconvenience to a reasonable person" and blocking use of the system.

Matthew Christian of BuskNY, a performer advocacy group, said performers who abide by the rules and out of the way of riders still get snagged. Christian was arrested in June 2011 for playing his violin in a Spring Street subway station.

"This rule, which has existed since 1985, is not well known in New York," he said.

Performers who do get arrested in the subway system can face a similar fate for other infractions because anyone arrested there are ineligible for a summons.

Daniel Siciliano, a 23-year-old Bronx resident who performs with a crew called 2Live, said he worries about being arrested again for something minor. He said he spent three days in central booking two weeks ago that resulted in a $250 fine and a day of community service for dancing on the No. 4 train.

"I can be on the train doing something else, and they can just snatch me up, take my name for not even doing anything," he said. "Just put me through the system because I'm a transit recidivist."

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