'Make money. Avoid arrest. Dance!"
That's what the small, brightly colored cards say, passed from police officers to acrobatic entertainers.
It's not showtime, but "It's Showtime NYC" -- a recent de Blasio administration program designed with NYPD Transit that allows officers to use some discretion in their interactions with the city's infamous subway dancers.
In some cases, rather than making arrests, officers are handing out palm cards bearing the above inscription, encouraging the boom box bearers to take their talents into the open air, where their performances are legal. It's an option between "warning and admonish" and "enforcement," NYPD Transit Chief Joe Fox said. The idea for the program originated outside the police department -- in this case, coming from the mayor's counsel's office.
The It's Showtime NYC website says the program "aims to celebrate and promote New York City street culture by providing performance and professional development opportunities to street and subway dancers as a legal alternative to dancing in subway cars."
The program does not drastically depart from the strategy of "broken windows" policing practiced by the administration. Commissioner Bill Bratton is adamant that police enforce quality-of-life offenses, especially in the crowded subways. He acknowledges that it won't change the habits of many underground performers.
Still, we applaud the effort by the police department and mayor's office to think outside the box -- trying to find a balance that keeps the subways under control but also has the potential to keep scores of young dancers from becoming ensnared in the criminal justice system. Most of them are, in the end, just dancing and trying to make a buck.
But the potential for these shows to spin out of control is real and worrisome. Police are still searching for a dancer who punched and spit on a rider who had been videotaping a recent performance on the E train as it approached Queens Plaza.
If the new initiative works and the boom box serenades decline, that will be music to everyone's ears.