NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A Manhattan couple has reportedly settled with the city, after being arrested and held overnight in police custody for dancing on a subway platform.
Back in July 2011, Caroline Stern, a 55-year-old dentist, and her boyfriend, 54-year-old film prop master George Hess, were dancing the Charleston at the 59th Street-Columbus Circle platform, when they were approached by a couple of NYPD officers who asked them what they were doing.
“And I responded we’re dancing and they told us it was illegal to dance on the platform,” Stern told 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon.
When she questioned that she said the officers asked for identification. All she had at the time was a credit card and Stern said the officers told her and Hess, who had started recording the exchange on his phone, that they had to go to the precinct.
“I said ‘Hold it, wait. What are you charging us for?’ and the next thing you know…boom, they arrested us, forced me to the ground,” Hess told 1010 WINS’ Rincon last year.
Stern and Hess were charged with resisting arrest and blocking the flow of traffic, although the charges were ultimately dropped.
The Metropolitan Transit Authority rules of conduct says subway riders may not “block free movement on a station, stairway, platform or conveyance,” or “commit any act which causes or may tend to cause harm to oneself or to any other person” such as riding a bicycle, skateboarding or roller skating. The rules do not mention dancing specifically.
The couple filed a lawsuit, claiming they spent a miserable night behind bars handcuffed and were later told it’s not illegal to dance on the platform after all. Last week, the city decided to settle with Stern and Hess for $75,000, according to a New York Post report.
The city Law Department did not indicate to the newspaper why the city decided to settle, but a spokeswoman said the decision did not mean the arresting officers did anything wrong.
City Councilman Peter Vallone (D-22nd) criticized the settlement, telling the newspaper the city will “go bankrupt sooner than we thought” with such high payouts.
At the time that Stern and Hess were arrested, police presented a different story of what happened. Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said last year that the couple was observed “dancing and jumping wildly on the platform” and that they “posed a danger to themselves and others on the platform.”
Police also accused Stern of saying “I don’t have to listen to black cops. Call the real cops to come.”
Browne said the officers determined the couple was drinking and posed a public safety risk.
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