Musicians and singers gathered at Central Park Sunday to protest the city's recent crackdown on performers near the park's Bethesda Fountain.
The fountain, along with several other locations in the park, were designated "Quiet Zones" on May 23. Since then, parks officers have been issuing summonses to musicians performing in the Quiet Zones, sparking an outcry from both the performers and the public.
The Central Park Conservancy, the private group tasked by the city to run the world-famous park, has claimed it's received noise complaints about the music.
But Geoffrey Croft of NYC Park Advocates said at the news conference Sunday the Conservancy has been "unable to back up the claims."
Civil rights attorney Norman Siegel said the group planned to reach out to attorneys for the Parks Department to resolve the issue.
Otherwise, he said the group was "prepared to challenge both the policy and the legality of the recent crackdown."
"The introduction of the enforcement of the Quiet Zones resulting in the loss of freedom of expression is an intrusion on the public space and it is unacceptable and impermissible," he said.
"Singing a cappella, playing non-amplified instruments, holding a lively debate should not result in a summons or an arrest," said Siegal. "Any New Yorkers who want to engage in this protected activity should not be chilled in his or her exercise of the rights."
"Central Park is a treasure -- it should be open and accessible to all New Yorkers," he added.
John Boyd, one of the musicians who was targeted in the crackdown, said he had received several summonses and was arrested once. "The issue to them was simply that I was here singing. Therefore I decided to take a stand," he said, adding it was a First Amendment issue for him.
The Central Park Conservancy offices were closed Sunday.