NEW YORK (CBS 2) — A crackdown in Central Park is aimed at silencing musicians in prime locations, but those artists were fighting back on Sunday, defying the rules in the new quiet zones.
The demonstration had no moments of silence, protesting with each guitar strum, harp pluck and horn blow, reports CBS 2’s Dave Carlin.
The musicians vowed they would not go quietly from any of Central Park’s eight new quiet zones, especially in a favored spot at Bethesda Fountain Terrace which boasts impressive acoustics.
“It’s a gift they’re giving us all – a gift – and we shouldn’t be looking a gift horse in the face,” park visitor Joanne Friday said.
“I like the peace and quiet,” said another park-goer. “That’s just me. Other people like music.”
The New York City Parks Department said noise complaints prompted the new rules.
A department spokesperson released the following statement:
“Parks are one of the few places you can come and hear the soothing sounds of nature: bird songs, falling water, the wind in the leaves, human conversation. With over 95 percent of the park available for musicians, we are setting aside less than five percent for those who come to the park for peace and quiet.”
The quiet zone signs appeared on May 23, and officers started their enforcement campaign right away, handing out tickets to violators.
“They’re targeting us,” guitarist William Donovan said.
Donovan, 22, said he was playing his guitar a week ago when five Parks officers surrounded him, demanding identification. He was ticketed.
“Disobeying an officer,” Donovan said. “[They said] ‘we told you not to come back, and you came back anyways.’”
“We cannot, and will not, stand by once again, to observe New Yorkers’ freedom of expression rights in this public park be eroded,” attorney Norman Siegel said.
Siegel said Parks officials want to move musicians away from the area as they consider plans to open a 75-table food court and serve alcohol there.
“That’s what you’d rather have than classical music? It’s a shame,” Donovan said.
Donovan and the other park musicians said to win their battle, they must play on.
Another quiet zone in the park is at Strawberry Fields, where music lovers go to honor the memory of John Lennon.