Thursday, May 20, 2010

New York City DOB Goes On The Offensive Against Illegal Billboards

NPA billboards (seen top left) proliferated on corners all over Manhattan. That alone raised eyebrows, but it was those small "win these posters inside" signs sitting atop the ads that were really suspect. And though you really could win a poster as advertised, there was something fishy about the offer, as if they were used to skirt the regulation by changing intent.

Ryan Fitzgibbon, spokeswoman for the City Department of Buildings, told the New York Times:
“If outdoor advertisement is allowed, a permit from D.O.B. must be obtained in order to post an advertisement or a sign,” she said, adding, “Advertisements are not allowed on construction fences.”

The DOB has its work cut out for it—there are thousands of illegal advertisement structures in the city—but it seems that DOB has been making progress. On May 28, 2009, for the first time ever, the DOB forcibly removed an illegal ad at 174 Broadway. What's more, The New York Post reports that a federal appeals court ruling in February finally authorized the city to enforce regulations that the billboard industry has hotly contested since the Giuliani administration. This has resulted in a "blitz against illegal signs and billboards along the city's busiest roadways," with 53 voluntarily removed.

It's quite possible you've noticed the results in your own neighborhood. As of late, the DOB has also been focusing on street level billboards owned by NPA. The sites first get covered in white paper, before being taken down completely. Note the photo above showing the results of these efforts, on corner of Mulberry and Kenmare.

What about the signs advertising free posters?
NPA had a prominent presence in LA as well, and recently landed in court facing millions of dollars on fines. LA Weekly has more, including the background on those "free posters" signs. In short, to get around regulations that prohibited certain outdoor advertising, NPA added the "win these posters inside" tag, then claimed the signs advertised products found inside the building, which changed the legal definition of their purpose and regulation.

These efforts did not unnoticed by residents and city officials on both coasts. NPA was feeling major enforcement pressures in LA and New York City, in addition to pressures and public awareness (video) of the problem generated by Jordan Seiler and his Public Ad Campaign. As a direct result of these pressures, NPA has ceased operation in New York City. A source wih the NYC DOB has confirmed this with Seiler; even NPA's website has gone dark.

Below, see the corner of Broome and Chrystie with illegal NPA ads in early 2009, and then in April of this year, after the ads and structures have been removed.

(See a photo set of this corner from October 2009, after Jordan Seiler's Public Ad Campaign utilized the ad space.)

The DOB hasn't gotten to all of spots previously managed by NPA. You'll still see billboards left behind; Seiler has noted that billboards with the signs inviting you to "win these posters" remain. Officially, those billboards actually operate under a company calling themselves Contest Promotions, and their is discrepancy over their legality. Contest Promotion's tag line is "Helping Mom and Pops Compete."

The DOB source who spoke with Seiler isn't buying it. "While CP is a different corporate entity, there apparently is some overlap between the two," he told Seiler. "As of now, CP signs are still considered advertising, not accessory; and the DOB will not stay enforcement against such signs."

Seiler for his part, told LA Weekly: "If you have a problem with something in public, go out and do something. It is incredibly empowering."

Wonder when the DOB will make a call about 'The Lord's Light' billboard on Canal and Hudson that is a menance to vehicular traffic.

Read more at Public Ad Campaign, where they covered NPA extensively. 

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