Last month, a subway busker was arrested for loitering after a confrontation with an NYPD officer over whether or not he was allowed to perform, sparking protests from performer advocates and local councilmen. And based on the case of subway performer Ramon Pena, who successfully argued with cops and MTA workers about being ejected from Grand Central this week, it seems that officials might actually be getting it finally.
Matthew Christian, who runs subway performers advocacy group BuskNY (who hosted that protest last month), came upon Pena being ejected from Grand Central because someone complained about him singing in the area between the 4/5/6 and Shuttle. "'Ejected' is a funny word: in Ramón’s case, it means that two police officers were requesting him to immediately exit the subway system, with the alternative being arrest," Christian wrote about the encounter.
The police claimed the complaint came from the MTA, so with the help of his friend Yuri and Christian, Pena respectfully argued with the station supervisor about the rules, which you can see in the video below. The most notable part of the exchange: Christian asks whether the MTA show any discretion in reporting complaints to cops, differentiating between wrongful complaints and justified ones. "If he calls in and complains that I'm gay, are you going to call the cops because he complained?" Christian asks. "We don't interrupt the validity of the complaint, we take the complaint and act on it," responded the station supervisor, who said his name was Johnson. "That's what we did, we made a call because of the complaint."
Unlike in the case of busker Andrew Kalleen, who was forcefully dragged out of the Lorimer Street / Metropolitan Avenue station by cops after pointing out he was well within his rights to perform, Pena was allowed to go back to playing after this. You can see him performing a lovely rendition of Billy Joel's "She's Got A Way," after the confrontation, below.
As someone described in a separate video below, which shows a different subway performer being allowed to play while cops watch from a distance, letting Pena play was certainly the appropriate response.