Billy gets subway signs back


By Albert Amateau

“We beat the man,” said Billy Leroy on Wednesday, celebrating with his lawyer, Lea Spiess, the return of 74 of the 109 old subway signs that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority seized a year ago in a raid on Billy’s Antiques and Props on East Houston St. by the Bowery.

Leroy had been selling the signs, acquired from a subcontractor of the M.T.A., for years until the agency raided his tent last year and seized them saying they were stolen. The Manhattan district attorney filed criminal charges (possession of stolen property) against Leroy, but the charges were dismissed last September. Leroy demanded the signs back, but District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. and the New York Police Department refused.

However, Spiess, a member of the Ronald L. Kuby law firm, said the refusal was a violation of due process and threatened to file a federal civil rights lawsuit.

The city and the D.A. relented about 10 days ago and agreed to return 74 of the signs.

“We agreed to let the N.Y.P.D. property clerk keep the remaining 35 signs,” Spiess said. Leroy and his lawyer went to the Police Department’s warehouse in Long Island City at noon on Wednesday with a van and a truck and brought the signs back to his tent location on East Houston St.