Heth and Jed Weinstein, long-time NYC buskers and authors of a busking memoire, have brought music to the MTA both as Music Under New York members and as freelancers. They were also targeted in one of the most visible busking harassment incidents of the last couple years, when, according to their notice of claim, Officer Valdez of the NYPD verbally abused them, physically threatened them, and also harassed them online during his off-hours.
Fortunately, they had video documentation of their claims, and they went to a lawyer in time. Last week, Heth appeared in-person at Busker Ball V to announce that their case against Officer Valdez had been settled:
Today, the story was covered in an article in Staten Island Live. Heth and Jed got in a word out personally:
“We hope that this case will put the city and the NYPD on notice that playing music in public spaces is not a crime, nor should a single police officer’s taste in music affect the constitutional right [to] rock out in public.”
The city is certainly on notice, since they footed the bill to the tune of $15,000 plus lawyers’ fees. But is the NYPD paying attention? Officer Valdez was not disciplined, despite video documentation of Heth and Jed’s claims. What’s more, BuskNY has received an email indicating that Officer Valdez, as recently as last year, harassed a performer and issued a ticket that was later dismissed as baseless.
Perhaps it’s time for the city and police department to take subway performers’ claims seriously. For now, we’ll keep our ears to the ground.