NYPD cracks down on subway break dancers, but should they?

NEW YORK (PIX11) - Whenever any of the 300 or so acrobatic dancers is on your train, it’s guaranteed not to be your routine subway ride. Dancing on a moving subway train takes athletic ability, timing, and smarts.

“It’s like measurements,” said Daniel Siciliano, a member of 2Live, a dance crew that’s regularly on the 4 and Q trains. “[A dancer knows exactly how far to stick his legs out when he does the signature move, ‘The Flagpole.’ We just know exactly how to flip without hitting nobody.”

It takes all that, but it gives back in return.

donation

They say on a good day, their subway performances can rake in between $100 and $150 each.

“It really pays bills,” said Rayquan Perez, another member of 2Live. They told PIX11 News that a bad day of receipts is, “$50 each. For 2 or 3 hours.”

A good day? “About 100 to 150 each,” said 2Live member Deroy Walden. “Without taxes,” added Rayquan Perez, who’s also a member of 2Live.

But there’s a flip-side, if you will.

Some passengers are visibly annoyed with having acrobatic dancing so close to their faces and bodies. By contrast, other passengers, who the dancers get just as close to while performing, end up laughing, and applauding the performances.

Break dancer

While some subway riders find the performers an interesting aspect of the city’s unique culture, others admit they can be annoying.

“I think of them as part of the culture of the city,” said subway rider Maria Zarate. “So I don’t see them as a bad thing.”

“If you feel it’s a danger, then move away,” said straphanger Tzu Shi Tsai. “Enjoy the show from afar, I guess.”

However, for every positive reaction to the dancers, there’s no shortage of detractors.

“I find it to be a little bit of a nuisance to be honest with you,” subway rider Peter Gordon told PIX11 News.

Break dancer2

The dancers say they have a constant sense of where their bodies are as they fly through acrobatic moves, but straphangers aren’t always so sure.

His viewpoints were magnified by the police commissioner, Bill Bratton. “People when they pay a fare have the right to a safe, quiet ride, with as few disturbances as possible,” Bratton told PIX11 recently.

Bratton is the former transit police chief, under whose leadership in the 1990′s, subway crime plummeted. It’s much safer now, but he says the concepts are still the same.

“The acrobats, I’ve gotten a lot of complaints about the acrobats,” Bratton said, referring to the dancers.  “They’re small crimes that have a big impact, a negative impact on the general public.”

He’s enforcing the written law, MTA Rules of Conduct 1050.6, which states, in part, that “permitted nontransit uses,” such as “artistic performances, including the acceptance of donations… may be conducted in the transit system except when on or within a subway car”.

In the first two months of 2014, quality of life violation arrests on the subway have tripled from the same period last year.  Dancing is no exception.

“I think it’s a waste of city money,” said activist and National Action Network founder Rev. Al Sharpton, “and certainly a waste… of law enforcement.  This is what makes New York, New York.”

However, that’s not how the NYPD saw it when two of its plainclothes officers in the transit bureau arrested three of the four 2Live dancers last Saturday.

Bratton

“People have the right to have a safe, pleasant ride on those subway cars,” Commissioner Bratton told PIX11 News.

Two of the arrested break dancers, Perez and Walden, spoke with PIX11 days later, along with their friend, Siciliano.  The three danced together five to seven days a week for the last seven years, when they were in middle school and high school.

“It makes us feel like dancing is a crime,” said Siciliano, “like expressing our talent is a crime.”

“We do feel like we’re criminals, because they got other people in [the holding cells] for things like robbing, killing,” said Perez.  “Even the criminals say that, ‘You all got arrested for dancing?’   They don’t even know that’s a crime.”

Officers ended up charging Perez, Walden and Walden’s brother, Marcus, with reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor.  Police gave Perez and Marcus Walden desk appearance tickets, allowing them to leave police custody to return to court at a later date.

Deroy Walden, who said he had a misdemeanor warrant on his record, was detained by police, and had to go before a judge in Central Booking.  He was eventually released pending further legal action.

Walden said that he understands that not everyone on the train wants him and his crew dancing in front of, above, and around them.  But, he added, “If the person doesn’t want us to do it, we’re only gonna be there for a minute or two… [just] two train stops.”

That’s still too long for police to tolerate, but not too long for potentially helpful admirers on the subway to create opportunity for the dancers.  In video of 2Live provided to PIX11 News, one passenger took down the contact information for Siciliano in order to possibly book his group for future gigs.

They have done quite a few in the past.  “We did photo shoots, magazines, a lot of different things,” Walden said.

“We’ve all done bar mitzvahs, kids shows,” said Siciliano.  “They’ll give us $100 each, just to entertain for a five minute routine.  …There’s kids involved, we’ll show them some type of dance moves and we’ll have them dance with us.”

The dancers are best friends, and they’re also business people.  As any entrepreneur will point out, there’s always a risk to doing business.  Getting arrested is a risk, dancing on the subway trains.

But there is no risk of arrest dancing on the subway platform.  The MTA Rules of Conduct also state that “nontransit uses are permitted by the Authority, provided they do not impede transit activities and they are conducted in accordance with [the] rules.”  Among the allowed activities are, once again, “artistic performances, including the acceptance of donations,” as long as they are in stations, and not on trains.

“If it’s legal on the platform, it doesn’t take a heavy lift to make it legal on the train.  C’mon,” Sharpton said.

In contrast, “People have the right to have a safe, pleasant ride on those subway cars,” Commissioner Bratton told PIX11 News.  “They’re paying for that.”

So as long as there are people who dread and are afraid of the dancers, riding in the same cars as people who smile at and delight in the dance performances, one thing will remain.  “It’s not gonna stop us, honestly,” said Siciliano.

 

42 comments

    • Ani M

      I can see why subway dancing may be a bit problematic but it’s an honest way to share their talent and earn funding. We ask our youth to do better and then arrest them. I think we should allow them to continue performing outside of rush hours but I do not agree with removing it entirely. Their performance is a small break of reality. Please let them!

      • Nikia Billinger

        DANNY IS MY LONG TIME FRIEND THAT LOVE TO DANCE AND HE IS VERY GOOD AT IT THESE BOY IS DOING SOMETHING positive with they spare time they not out robbing and killing no one for money they useing they talent and i enjoy to see young men dancing to make money on the train with out having to robb people for they phones or ipads or laptops keep up the good work 2Live just stay blessed and safe

  • Mark

    Get over it an lighten up New Yorkers! Be more open and enjoy things in life and don't be so dark about fun stuff! Some take their personal space needs a little too far and just don't like to be pushed to have to get their nose out of their own bubble and actually acknowledge and interact with other people. :-)

    • UpsideDaHead

      We people that look at things "dark" as you say don't want your so called "fun stuff" in our face all the time. We laugh when something's truly funny but won't just laugh at anything and everything just to fit in. That overly happy B.S. gets old and you seem to never get enough of it. So please spare us the bubbly crap and let us get to our destination if you would be so kind.

  • Lou c

    Absolutely put a stop to it. Think About the elderly who can't take an accidental kick to the face or the person who needs to finish reading a book or report on the way to their destination. We should be able to ride the subway without being harassed.

  • Alexander Xavier

    They bring smiles to many people’s morning, it is not harming anyone. There are other things to worry about.

  • DWellerBda

    dancing is not a crime so if people do not like it why not dedicate a car on every train where the dancers will be denied access, that way anyone who doesn't want to be near them can ride in that car but to arrest guys who is just trying to make a little tip to maybe help their families or something is not a crime. Come on!!

  • Jim

    Yes, they should be banned on moving subway. What if they lose balance and someone gets kicked in the head? That's why people are moving back. Are they going to pay compensation if that person can't work because they are hurt? And Sharpton is an idiot!!!

  • Sally

    I think it’s ridiculous cause I do fear for my face and other passengers on the train as well.there took really long to crack down on it..

  • BobK

    When one of the dancers gets hurt while dancing on a train and sues the city because a rail broke from the ceiling of the train or a passenger sues because a dancer falls on them then the tax payers have to pay. No train dancing

  • Eugene Falik

    There are a great many things that I don't like, but that doesn't mean that I can ban them. The "dancers" are clearly exercising their first amendment rights. If Bill Bratton is directing police officers under his command to arrest them on a charge of reckless endangerment, he should be able to present some evidence after this has been going on for at least a dozen years. Has anyone ever been injured?

  • Randy

    Break dancing on a train is totally disrespectful to the people on the train that is not interested in seeing that because its forced on them they are stuck on the train and they have to be subjected to this ghetto behavior, doing it on the platform is one thing but on the train they can accidently kick someone in the head with all that flipping, its a total disrespect to the train riders and Al Shapton should keep his two faced hypocrite mouth shut.

    • tyquon

      So since all of your complaining,buy a car or get a bike. Your cry about the noise when the train is already at a high level just shows ignorance on you’re parts so get a life or read a book, or put a plug in it cause your not the only passengers on the train so stop putting them down cause truthfully if it was a bunch of white kids doin it, this wouldn’t even be up for discussion

  • Anna

    It is an imposition. You pay for the ride, not for entertainment. If I want to see a rapper, or a dancer, I will do so. The music is loud, played on machines that have poor sound reproductions. The result is just noise.

    • tyquon

      Anna you should be happy cause you could pay your fare like others with no entertainment and could just be stuck in the tunnel cause of train delay’s or you could be getting begged by a homeless person for your parents money or your hard earned money so if you have an issue by a car or a bike or just simply walk

  • Meme

    This is stupid. Why all of a sudden dancing on the train be a crime? What they want them to do? What they really want them to do? If these young people can do something constructive with their time leave them alone! Why make constructive things a crime in their book? I guess they want these young people to go out on the streets and do bad things.

  • Tyquon

    I believe the city is upset cause their not collected taxes off these young men talent. People complain cause they wish they had the guts to do it themselves, so they put down the ones that do. I believe the dancers have been showing respect, cause they do ask riders to step to the side politely so they can entertain those riders that do want to see the show. This is their hustle so leave them be cause they could be running off with your belongings or selling drugs to survive, but instead their going out there earning their honest hard earned money putting on a show so you could have a smooth ride on the train to work, school or home, so how i feel about it, is if you have a complaint about whats goin on in the city, move somewhere else or buy a car so you don’t have to feel anyway or just stay home in your hole

    • UpsideDaHead

      "earning their honest hard earned money putting on a show" ? Really? We never hired you to waggle around for us. You're living in a dream world if you think that's cool.

      • tyquon

        That’s right you didn’t hire them, they hired themselves and that’s what you call entrepreneur, so keep your dollars in your pocket cause there’s million more New Yorkers that are willing to pay to see the show so please leave your opinions to yourself cause your opinion doesn’t matter in our books anyway

      • UpsideDaHead

        Your reply is on a public forum and unlike your dancer friends I'm a taxpayer which DOES make my opinion matter more than a non-taxpayer like YOU, get it? What you are doing is a liability. If a "dancer" accidentally kicks someone in the eye and that eye needs surgery are you "dancers" going to take financial responsibility for the injury or run away as soon as the doors open? This is a debate you can't win because I have facts and YOU have opinion. Opinions don't stand up in court "tyquon"
        I await your floundering reply.

      • tyquon

        Now that’s funny you assume to make yourself to look like an ass, first off I don’t dance on the train nor on the streets and since we on the topic of paying taxes, for one you a worker, mean you work for somebody else lmao, well I own my own porter company that provides services for many of the restaurants around NYC,smh look me up if you need a job its great pay so the taxes you pay don’t mean jack on what I pay so if the people who want to be entrepreneurs wish to make money their way than who am I or you to stand in their way especially for someone like yourself who works for other entrepreneur

  • Disgusted New Yorker

    "I believe the city is upset cause their not collected taxes off these young men talent." This quote from above idiot is the real crime here. NOT only does the City NOT receive ANY tax money from these dancers, most are on welfare and other city programs. Just great "Pay people to go on Subways and into our limited PUBLIC PARKS, create noise, crowds, etc get sometimes large sums of money while the City pays for you NOT TO LOOK FOR WORK!

    This is NOT "Freedom of Speech" nor anything else! It is a disgrace, and as morons like Al Sharpton say that this is WHY people come to NY, well then he is dumber than he sounds!

    • tyquon

      First off disgusted new yorker get off the dick bitch now you can blow a million and that’s right cause if they wad collected, there would be no complete as always just to bad you to blind to see that idiot and we know you on public assistances so nobody asked you to put your money in there pocket and that’s right that’s there job dummy, their job to be who they are, and they don’t need your approval, especially from a nobody as hater and next time you want to comment think about what you say cause I can tell you lack an education and that’s why you talking out the side of your neck

      • UpsideDaHead

        Spewing hate and insults doesn't win arguments "tyquon"

        Remember; The first one to throw a punch admits he lost the argument.

      • tyquon

        Make sure the next time you say spread hate look in the mirror cause your the last to talk when you suggest somebodies comment is idiotic, and since we on the tax’s topic for one I use to work for a politician name James e Davies and that’s how I know you have no idea on what your talking about its just your opinion

  • Disgusted New York

    But even if for some distorted PC reasoning people want to allow this garbage in the noisy subways, the TRUE DISGRACE is that our Parks Dept have given these break-dancers FREE, NON taxed space in what is supposed to be OUR QUIET and TRANQUIL and BEAUTIFUL Public Parks.

    Have you been to the center of Central Park lately? What a horror! GANGS of break-dancers blasting amplified music, creating crowds, smoking dope and drinking alcohol, actively soliciting for $$$$ and this occurs 24/7. There is no compromise with these people – they takeover an entire area and do whatever they want, AND they do it 24/7!!!! OUR PUBLIC PARKS are supposed to be for an escape from the noise and crowds of the City – NOT TO GET IT WORSE IN YOUR FACE!!

  • Chinks

    Honestly, I'm a train dancer.. ITS NOT THAT SERIOUS. We live in NEW YORK CITY, the place where a whole bunch of craziness occurs. If you don't like it MOVE TO THE SUBURBS. I understand some people had a long day or whatever the case may be… but if you had a shitty day, suck it up, enjoy the entertainment, laugh at the jokes and move on the show lasts at most 2 or 3 mins. If the music is loud, buy noise reducing headphones.. If you feel endangered .. MOVE OUT THE WAY . Or ask the dancers where you could stand so the show isn't in 3D.

  • Chinks

    & Honestly .. ISN'T AMERICA IN DEBT? You mean to tell me y'all have all this money to arrest kids for dancing, but y'all don't have money to pay the nation wide bills? You've got to be kidding me! There's no reason why dancers are being harassed, and sent to central bookings just for trying to entertain people and keep money in their pockets. They're not in the street robbing, murdering, or killing .. yet we still find every excuse in the book to arrest somebody.

    I understand the Government's role is to serve and protect but honestly y'all pushing it.

  • Chinks

    It's crazy because the police offers tells us like, " We don't want to have to arrest y'all, y'all talented, y'all out here doing y'all thing at least y'all not in the streets .. we don't want to do this , it's just orders from uptop" LIKE REALLY? WASTE THEIR TIME WHY DON'T YOU ?

    Got police officers out here lurking in the trains looking for dancers, when there's people out here getting shot, doing drugs, and who knows what out there.

  • John

    One of these guys kicked the cellphone out of my hand and broke my headphones. This happened after I walked to the other side of the train to avoid this kind of thing from happening – so the argument that commuters can avoid these performances if they want is BS. A subway car is a place where you literally can't go anywhere. I'm an artist myself so I sympathize, but these guys are picking a subway car to perform specifically because they have a trapped audience. Doing that makes you kind of an asshole.

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