The cell phone has been repurposed as a miniature boom box — and it’s not music to everyone’s ears.
In a smartphone-era twist on the 1980s urban phenomenon, a new generation of young people has emerged to acoustically alter the city’s streets, subways and occasionally buses. This time around, they’re toting lightweight, but powerfully speakered iPods, iPhones, BlackBerries and Droids.
“In the last five years, it’s gotten a lot worse because of cell phone technology,” observed Kenny Ulloa, 24, a digital technician who is sonically assaulted on his trips from Fort Greene to Manhattan on the A and R trains. “You’re a captive audience, which sucks.”
Andrea Roberts, 47, a secretary from the northeast Bronx, put it another way: “It’s noise pollution!” she lamented.
Blasting, as the young call it, broadcasts a teenager’s musical tastes and identity, and attracts approval and possible interaction from like-minded peers. Kids say blasting is a way of sharing new tracks with friends and strengthening group bonds.
Among them is Andrew C., 15, of Bedford Park, who blasts cacophonous metal bands such as We Butter the Bread with Butter and Disturbed. He told of being reprimanded by a woman on the No. 4 train.
“I just turned my music up louder,” said Andrew, grinning. If a passenger objecting to his music “is acting like an ass, I ignore them completely,” continued Andrew, who complained the woman “approached me with an attitude.”
Attitude or not, it’s illegal to play a radio audible to others or use amplified devices on platforms or elsewhere inside the MTA system. Violators face fines of $50. The NYPD, which is tasked with enforcement, did not respond to repeated requests for information regarding citations issued.
Blasting, said Jason G., 16, of Hell’s Kitchen, “is a teenage thing.”
“I do it all the time. Why not? I like the music loud.”
Teens, are attention fiends and will often do outrageous things to get it, said Neil Bernstein, adolescent psychologist and author of “How to Keep Your Teenager Out of Trouble and What To Do If You Can’t.”
If adolescents sense an act is sperceived as cool by their peers, a “behavior contagion,” occurs, he explained.
But not all kids, however, are enchanted by the broadcasts that conscript everyone within earshot into experiencing the latest Trey Songz, Nicki Minaj or Slipknot.
Broadcasting your need for attention by broadcasting music to unwilling listeners is “stupid,” said Alice Rosario, 15, of East Harlem.
David Marrero, 17, of East Harlem, shares dub and beat music with friends in Central Park, “but never on the train: It’s disrespectful!”
(with Gabrielle Bruney)