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Letter to the Editor: Tarrytown Censorship

"Why is this town stifling entrepreneurship and wasting public funds?"

Editor's Note: After writing one editorial this week about the "hypocrisy" of Tarrytown's street music code, Vincent Fracaroli submits this follow-up complaint that the new code constitutes censorship. Have a letter you want to share with your Patch community? Write me at krista.madsen@patch.com.

An open letter to Mayor Drew Fixell and the Board of Trustees

Composer Aaron Copland once said: “After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music:” As thus, music is a form of expression and can be perceived as a form of speech. As such, it is protected by the first amendment of the Bill of Rights of these United States; to censor music is to censor our freedom of speech.

Not only is the new street performer code hypocritical, as the Village pays some musicians and charges others, and a waste of public funds (given that some people will perform for free), but it is also an infringement, as it proposes unnecessary stipulations, on our civil liberties as Americans. Charging for a permit to play music on public property, property that is paid for and maintained by the people’s pocketbook, is akin to charging the teamsters for a permit for their right to protest.

Furthermore, there was nothing in the village code before September 2012 that banned gratuity for services, only goods; performing on public sidewalks is providing a service, and is therefore neither solicitation nor hawking nor peddling a good.

Does this mean that waiters of Tarrytown’s fine eating establishments must now not accept gratuity either under penalty of imprisonment? Should the town ban tip-jars in say, 7-11, Subway, or even Coffee Labs?

Why is this town stifling entrepreneurship and wasting public funds?

Before anyone says such music could be construed as disturbing under Chapter 215 of the Village code, I would like to note that music is subjective: Music is merely organized noise, noise being defined as sound.

Why are the third Friday events and summer concert series exempt from the village’s own code, which states:

B. Radios, television, electronic sound-reproduction devices, etc.: the using, operating or permitting to be played, used or operated any radio receiving set, musical instrument or instruments, phonograph or other machine or device for the producing or reproducing of sound in such a manner as to disturb the peace, quiet and comfort of the neighboring inhabitants or at any time with louder volume than is necessary for convenient hearing for the person or persons who are voluntary listeners thereto. The operating of any such set, instrument, phonograph or device between the hours of 12:00 midnight and 7:00 a.m. in such manner as to be plainly audible on adjacent properties shall be prima facie evidence of violation of this section.

These bands at the Third Friday events and summer concert series use amplifiers. The last third Friday band that performed in front of the liquor store on Main Street could be heard from two blocks away; the amplifiers are louder than necessary. Thus, the residents of Tarrytown must be subjected to this sound, whether it is considered music or noise. Yet, again, others must pay for permits.

I will repeat: Why is this town stifling entrepreneurship and wasting public funds? 

Sincerely, Vincent Fracaroli

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What do you think? Should musicians be allowed to collect tips? Is the village stifling entrepeneurship and freedom of expression? Tell us in the comments.

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