Sign Industry: “The Law is interfering with my illegal income!!”

This is like the mafia complaining that law enforcement hurts their business…

Sign companies claim billboard fines are crippling the ad industry

BY Adam Lisberg

New York’s crackdown on oversized billboards is hurting the ad industry, as sign companies say inspectors are hitting them with huge fines for minor infractions.

“Here is an industry that is synonymous with New York, and it employs a lot of people, but it seems the city is targeting it,” said City Councilman Bill de Blasio (D-Brooklyn).

The Post reported that de Blasio, just days after making this statement, received an $8,000 payout from the sign industry.  (and you thought I was joking with that mafia comment)

“The fines given to one single billboard can go over $100,000, but the fines issued in the East Side crane collapses were a fraction of that,” he noted.

“It’s like the world turned upside down.”

De Blasio would be partially right if  the fines were issued to begin with.  Part of the problem is that the DOB doesn’t have the resources to make all the inspections. All while the city throws millions of dollars at the NYPD Vandal Task Force to arrest penniless graffiti artists like Poster Boy. Fines aren’t issued on most illegal billboards, and when they are, the fines aren’t enough – each billboard can make thousands of dollars every month. A well placed billboard in Manhattan can fetch $50,000/month, making a “potential” risk of a $100,000 fine begin to look like a minor business expense.

But more than anything, we’re talking about an industry that is operating illegally.  Why shouldn’t they be fined?  And why should we feel bad for them if they do?

The crackdown began in 2006 after the City Council, reacting to community pressure, passed tough new restrictions on billboards next to major roads and on outsized ads covering entire building walls.

“It’s there to address a real problem,” said Councilwoman Melinda Katz (D-Queens), who pushed those laws through. “We put together a huge coalition to make this happen.”


Each violation can cost up to $25,000, and each sign can trigger multiple violations – which city officials said is necessary to deter signs that generate enormous profits.

Again, if and when the fine is ever issued.

“They would nitpick on every little thing to come up with eight different violations,” said Michael Eisenberg, spokesman for OTR Media Group, one of the city’s major billboard companies.

“This is the same Buildings Department that should be cracking down on unsafe buildings.”

“Little things” like fire hazards, blocking windows and fire escapes of apartment dwellers, and the wholesale theft of public spaces for billboard companies profits.  The DOB is working on unsafe buildings every day and… hey, wouldn’t those fines help pay part of the DOB budget?

Billboard companies have sued to block the new rules, and city officials have been reluctant to discuss the dispute while the case is in the courts.

When the Buildings Department targeted large outdoor signs in 2007, it said 20% of building owners voluntarily removed signs when told they were illegal.

Agency spokesman Tony Sclafani defended the crackdown.

“Illegal signs can pose a danger to the public if not safely installed,” Sclafani said. “The safety of New Yorkers is the department’s top priority.”

Billboard companies in New York have been operating illegally for years, are sapping city resources in the courts in an effort to change the laws they break in their favor, and here they manage a way to whine in the press about fines they barely receive from enforcement that is barely happening – as an example; note this DOB record of a billboard I personally reported that hasn’t been acted on since I called it in 9 months ago.  De Blasio deserves to be ridiculed for standing up to defend corporate criminals, more so to take money for it, when he was elected as a Democrat to represent the people of Brooklyn.  Shame.

Thanks to Jordan at PublicAdCampaign

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One Comment

  1. Bad reporting always goes with whatever the officials say — in this case it may do a little more harm than in most.

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