Back in March, Billy Leroy, owner of the Houston Street used item outpost Billy's Antiques & Props, had an unusual Friday night as he was taken out of his store in handcuffs and had 96 of his subway signs seized by police. The shopowner claimed to have been selling them legally for 12 years, obtaining them for a few thousand dollars from an MTA subcontractor looking to dispose of the "obsolete and damaged signs". Though he was charged with receiving and selling stolen merchandise, Billy later had his case dismissed in September, when a Manhattan judge "granted Mr. Leroy's request to have the signs returned to him."
The law may be the law, but Billy's prosecutors, who legally owe the vintage reseller the signs, have now refused to hand them back, and are instead looking for a way to give them back to the MTA.
The sign seller's defense lawyer "called the DA's office 'a cut-rate repo agency' for the MTA", and from the looks of it, the signs won't be handed back until they absolutely must be returned:
"We are in the process of determining rightful ownership of the property, as any responsible lawyer would do," Erin Duggan, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.'s spokeswoman, said. "Barring no other claim, we will support Mr. Leroy's application to get the signs back."
Looks like there will be a lot more chairs and furniture than transit memorabilia lining the sidewalks of Houston for the time being.
· No Sign of Billy Leroy’s Subway Signs [Bowery Boogie]
· Theft charges dropped against Bowery antique dealer, but lawyers refuse to give him back his goods [NY Daily News]
· Antique Seller Cleared of Charges [WSJ]
· STOP! Beloved Bowery antiques dealer nabbed with street, MTA signs [NY Daily News]