NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — An Upper West Side couple now has no qualms about dancing in the subway, after the city settled with them for $75,000 following a lawsuit when police arrested them for the act.
As CBS 2’s Steve Langford reported, 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 last year.
When Hess questioned the law the officer quoted, 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.
Police got angry when Stern began his video recording of the incident, the couple said. At that point, Stern said the officers told them they were resisting arrest.
They were also charged with impeding the free flow of traffic on the subway.
Stern was forced to cool her heels in police custody for 24 hours, she said, at various holding cells including the precinct here near her home.
“And then I went back to Center Street to appear before a judge,” Stern said.
The charges were ultimately dropped, and Stern and Hess sued the city over their ordeal.
Stern, who loves birds and dancing, said she sued the city to make a philosophical point about the police in this stop-and-frisk era.
“There are two activities which do not harm the world — reading and dancing,” Stern said. “I think Voltaire said that.”
Now, Stern said she and Hess won’t hesitate to dance in the subway again.
“When in doubt, dance,” she said.
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.
The city Law Department said the settlement should not be read as an admission of wrongdoing by police.
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