BuskNY en español

El metro de Nueva York es un sitio para compartir no solamente el arte, sino la cultura también. Eso se nota tanto en el gran numero de idiomas que se oye en cada andén como en la diversidad de tradiciones musicales, incluso varios grupos mexicanos y andinos.

Por consiguiente, uno de los proyectos de BuskNY es facilitar acceso a información legal práctica para músicos y artistas que no hablan el inglés. Es particularmente importante notar que una proporción elevada de ellos han tenido problemas con la policía, muy a menudo sin justificación legal ninguna de la parte de la policía, todavía sin tener acceso a información exacta sobre sus derechos como artistas y la protección que ofrece la ley.

Aunque ya existen varias fuentes de información sobre la legalidad de la música y del arte en la MTA, incluso el guía de CityLore y las reglas oficiales del MTA, hasta ahora no ofrecen información en español. Por eso hemos creado una pagina en español para satisfacer las necesidades de esta comunidad. También se puede ponerse en contacto con nosotros directamente, incluso en español, para hacer una pregunta o pedir ayuda.

Esperamos que esta información les pueda servir, y que ¡sigan disfrutando de la mùsica!

8/22: Progress in the making

BuskNY would like to congratulate the New York City Council for doing the right thing today, and express thanks to everyone who’s worked to advocate for the decision that was made. New York City will now have a police inspector, as well as an end to the Stop and Frisk program. That’s a step for greater oversight and greater respect, and like everyone focused on police accountability, we couldn’t be happier.

That’s all for now — we’re taking the night off to celebrate. But more on police and police reform soon!

8/21: Big city bubbles

Update 8/22: David Everitt-Carlson reminds us of the consequences of the recent changes to NYC Parks rules:

“If he’s taking donations the Parks Dept. now considers that illegal in [Central Park], Union Square, The High Line and Battery and could summons him – unless he’s on a medallion and using a 3′X8′ table with nothing else on the ground.”

When you ban public art, you are banning this man and his bubbles. Bet you feel accomplished right now, rule-writers.

Original post: Popped up for air at Union Square with Milo this week, and who was there but this guy:

Bubble picture

I’ll be darned if those bubbles weren’t the most beautiful thing I’ve seen all week. And do you ever see New Yorkers smile like that?

8/20: How I was(n’t) robbed

Today was toasty below-ground, but I had an excellent day out. (And that’s welcome news, given my struggles early this summer. I’ve been having a blast ever since the week of vacation, so clearly things have taken a turn for the better!)

Speaking of ups and downs, here’s a story from today. After a fun and well-paid hour at 86th St, I played on the 53rd St EM platform, which was one of the first places I ever played at the beginning of last summer. It’s a great spot, and I had a blast playing for a very supportive audience. (At one point, I lost a few dollars to the infamous 53rd St wind tunnel — and lo and behold, a guy came up with a big grin and a $5 bill to console me. My hero!)

I finally fixed the wind problem by closing my case and setting it behind me, then opening up my messenger bag on top of the case to accrue donations. That also gave me added protection against the insidious “blocking traffic” charge by consolidating things behind me:

53rd st case

The only downside was that listeners had to go behind me to deposit their money. But hey: though I’ve had my share of bad train service, angry police, unidentifiable dripping gunk, and worse things in the MTA, I’ve never had a reason to mistrust the wonderful people who ride the trains.

After about forty-five minutes, I needed a break and turned over the spot to a duo of drummers. I counted up my lucre in the train and very pleased. But I went to put it in my messenger bag, I found the pocket open. And the money I had made at 86th was no place!

Once I had looked through the bag, I decided that the money wasn’t a big problem. I still had the tips from 53rd anyway, and I had time for another hour or two later on in the afternoon anyway. But what did bother me was the loss of trust in the riders. Sure, I don’t always love ’em, especially when they don’t give. But from the bottom of my heart, I think city folks are good people — and so this was a bummer!

Anyway, turns out there’s not much of a dramatic ending to this story. I had just put my 86th St earnings in a pocket that I usually overlook, and so there they were. (I was happy as a clam, needless to say.)

So thanks, NYC, for being just as good as I’ve always thought you are. That’s saying a lot!

8/17: BuskNY’s back in town!

BuskNY’s back!

The last few days have been busy, both with busking and because I’ve taken on a commitment as the volunteer ESL instructor for a summer after-school program. That said, I’m still finding time to busk and to do community outreach. And we’re looking forward to having Kalan back in town soon as well, which will double our boots on the ground.

In any case, today brought big news. I spoke by phone with a violinist who received a wrongful summons (‘blocking traffic’ for a solo violinist playing in the evening, written expressly once she had asked for the officer’s badge number.) She was adjudicated guilty at her first hearing, but we’ve gotten her in touch with an attorney and are looking forward to a fairer outcome on appeal.

Then, I met another performer who’s received a summons, this time with a charge of ‘disorderly conduct,’ for playing guitar and singing on the platform. Her court date is just before mine, at the beginning of September, and we’re looking forward to seeing that thrown right out with a lawsuit to boot.

And finally, I met a jazz saxophonist — an excellent one — who’s been arrested no fewer than five times for acoustic, rule-abiding performances. Is that unjust? Well, apparently New York City judges think so: they’ve dropped the charges all five times. Can’t even say how much I look forward to seeing this go back to a court of law — this time with the real wrong-doers as the defendants.

Pretty exciting for one day’s developments. Justice, justice, we’ll get you one day!

8/5: State of the busk

I’m taking off tomorrow morning for a week in Vermont. So, it’s a good moment to look at what we’ve done and learned so far this summer:

  1. We’ve gotten the website and associated Twitter and Facebook pages up and running, with decent visibility and traffic. Also, one of our videos currently stands at 7,641 views, which I think is pretty great. One of our original goals was to establish a web presence for practical legal information about busking arrests — so we’re making good progress there.
  2. The “Music is Legal!” shirts have been printed, and we’ve distributed about 20 so far. They look great, and we’re happy to see ’em in the subway.
  3. Our mailing list is expanding fast. We hope not to use it often, apart from a couple reminders about the possibility of lawsuits. But if and when rules changes are proposed at the MTA, it’ll be the subway arts’ weapon for organization. Si vis pacem, para bellum!
  4. Our harassment database has also grown to over 20 incidents. Not bad, considering it came into being two weeks ago — but also not good, if you believe that subway artists shouldn’t be being illegally harassed. But in any case, the problem is starting to be documented on a broader scale than it has been before, and that may be a solution in the making.
  5. We’ve started to develop strategies for protecting performers proactively, including visibly displaying rules pamphlets and tracking police incidents back to misinformation with station managers. Big hopes for the future on this front…

One other thing: through a lot of conversations in the last few weeks, I’ve heard how hard it’s been for many performers because of wrongful harassment. I’m still the only one I know who’s been hit by a cop for playing the violin — but I’m not the only one who’s been harassed, or hurt, or chased out, or yelled out, or arrested. This is not a non-issue, folks, and we’re going to hit back as hard as we can.

And, a couple goals for the future:

  1. More lawsuits. With the harassment database growing and the news that you can sue for a wrongful summons, this is the time to take a bite out of the NYPD for its failure to train its officers on the laws of New York City. We’ll be psyched to see some notices of claim filed soon!
  2. More community involvement here. Given the basis we’ve established so far and the importance of public performance to the NYC arts scene, we think an organization in this role can be productive in the long term in this city. We’d like to start taking steps to make this more sustainable — and that includes getting friends and peers writing here and involved in planning and decision-making. More on this to come soon!

My 7 AM Megabus beckons, so that’s all for now. I’ll be enjoying a break from the blog for the week — but based on what we’ve heard and done so far, I’ll be looking forward to getting back to work just as much. See you soon, New York!

8/3: Parrots, buckets, and my burgeoning love for the NYPD

Today, Milo and I spent a few hours doing outreach. What I’m learning is that community organizing is a bit-by-bit process: every day brings a few new conversations, a few more names on the mailing list, and a few more t-shirts out in the world. That may sound romantic — but is it ever slow-going as well.

Still, we’re building something important. Today at 14th St, we saw a large green parrot on someone’s shoulder on the platform — and we also ran into Don the bucket drummer, playing a Kikkoman soy sauce bucket like the world was about to end:

Don

A couple hours later, we ran into a cellist who had already seen Don in his shirt. So, we know that word’s spreading!

I also busked for about an hour and a half, in two different stations, with Milo taking some pictures. I learned that I have an incredible ability to make weird faces while playing:

Peek!

Would you tip a guy who looks like that?

Anyway, one more story from today. When we arrived at the 59th St 6 station, we saw a police officer across the platform. Like I mentioned in the last post, I’m feeling a bit tired of going to jail for music — but ever hopeful for the best, I unpacked and asked Milo to take video if she came over.

Indeed, she came by within five minutes and asked if I had a permit. “What permit?,” I asked. “Have you ever seen one?” “No,” she said, a bit sheepishly, “although you do see those banners.” I then showed her my rules, and after taking a careful look, she had this to say:

“Thanks for showing me this. Now I know.”

Now there’s a hopeful sign indeed. (If only — if only — but if ONLY the NYPD offered training on this!)