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New York plans to drive street musicians out of Central Park - "Quiet Zones" enFORCEd

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NEW YORK — Few instruments can be gentler than the harp, but authorities in New York's Central Park have branded street musicians like harpist Meta Epstein a public disturbance and want them driven out.

A new campaign to enforce eight "quiet zones," including in some of the city's most hallowed spots for street performers, is turning virtuosos like Epstein into outlaws.

After years of being left in peace to perform her baroque repertoire on the beautiful, golden instrument, Epstein, 59, says she's suddenly being treated as a menace.

Park police, she said, accused her of destroying the grass where she sat and ordered her to move on.

"They say we're responsible for the bare patch but then you see people everywhere playing soccer with boots and cleats," she said in bewilderment. "They were actually pretty nasty and I'm not used to police intimidation. It's basically putting us out of work."

Nearby in the mosaic-lined colonnades next to Bethesda Fountain, a few brave souls performed Mozart and Gospel songs in defiance of the ban.

The columned arcade is not just a prime tourist spot, but enjoys some of the best acoustics in New York outside of a concert hall, leaving the last note of each song hanging in the air. But the musicians, including a Japanese singer, a Ukrainian double bass player and singer John Boyd, said playing timeless music hadn't saved them from the crackdown.
Boyd, a 48-year-old with a powerful, deep voice, pulled eight pink sheets from his pocket -- park police summonses handed out over the last two weeks for fines ranging from $50 to $350.

"I've been ticketed and arrested because I wouldn't stop singing," he said. "My life has been devastated by this."

Central Park representatives say they have nothing against musicians. They just want don't want them in "quiet zones," which have been marked with new, shiny green and white sign

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