The case of Billy Leroy—arrested recently for selling old subways signs at his Houston Street junk store—may hinge on a licensing issue, not on theft of MTA property. The 50-year-old has stocked the signs for 12 years, but only last month did cops raid the place and take most (though not all) of them, charging him with possessing stolen city property. Since Leroy allegedly bought them from an agency contractor, he says they're legit. "Billy deserves some sort of M.T.A. entrepreneur-of-the-year award instead of what he went through,” his lawyer, civil-rights advocate Ronald Kuby told CityRoom.

But the issue's more complicated since, according to a MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan, "contractors are instructed to save old signs for potential sale to the public through the M.T.A.’s Website." Businesses wishing to use MTA logos must undergo a licensing process, which is what Donovan advised for Leroy. But even then, would he be allowed to sell real signs? Or like Underground Signs, could he stock only (expensive) replicas? For now, he's not concerned with the question, he just wants the contentious placards out of his store. Of the sign for 59th-Street Columbus Circle left over after the raid, he said, "Tell them to pick it up, or I’m putting it in the garbage.”

The antiques dealer is due back in court in June, and could be sentenced to up to 7 years.