Misdemeanor Charge for Pole-Sitting Rapper

One day after scaling a traffic light in Times Square — and remaining there, rapping, exercising and clogging several blocks of Midtown traffic for nearly two hours — Raymond Velasquez, 34, was arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court Wednesday afternoon on a misdemeanor charge of reckless endangerment, as well as lesser charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct.

“I won’t come down unless Alicia Keys comes outside to see me,” Mr. Velasquez told officers, according to the criminal complaint. Ms. Keys had performed in Times Square on ABC’s “Good Morning America” earlier Tuesday morning.

While atop the traffic light apparatus, Mr. Velasquez told police officers he was searching for his lost son, according to the complaint, which cites Officer Peter Rogers of the Police Department’s 14th Precinct. Then, around 5:40 p.m. Tuesday, Mr. Velasquez admitted his actions were “just a publicity stunt for my music,” the complaint said.

An aspiring rapper from Brooklyn who performs as “Coney Island Joe,” Mr. Velasquez climbed the vertical beam on the corner of 44th Street and Seventh Avenue at about 9:20 a.m. Tuesday. He supported himself atop two small struts attached to the traffic light — as a crowd gathered to watch him sit, pray, complete a set of pull-ups on the beams and, more often, rap in the direction of the “Good Morning America” studios and MTV building on either side of him. Mr. Velasquez also offered his demo CD to the officers below him, according to witnesses.

In the complaint, Officer Rogers said Mr. Velasquez had “recklessly engaged in conduct which created a substantial risk of serious physical injury to another person” by balancing atop the 20-to-25-foot light pole with pedestrians below. Once officers became aware of his antics, they forced spectators to the sidewalk, shut off several blocks of Seventh Avenue traffic and assembled an inflatable landing spot below the traffic light.

Myriad explanations circulated along Seventh Avenue Tuesday morning, as a swelling crowd tried to make sense of the spectacle. Some said they had seen Mr. Velasquez walk into the MTV building in an effort to promote his CD. Others thought he might have been making a political statement.

Some attributed his conduct to Ms. Keys.

“He wanted to get her attention,” said J.R. Foster, 52. “He’s just trying to get played.”

Half an hour before Mr. Velasquez ascended the pole, Ms. Keys had performed “Empire State of Mind (Part II).”

“These streets will make you feel brand new,” she sang. “Big lights will inspire you.”

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