Brooklyn Boro

Banned! Floating billboards flushed from New York City waters

August 20, 2019 Paul Frangipane
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Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed into law a bill that bans floating billboards from New York City waterways.

Legislators and locals alike have been railing against the floating ads — projected from 60-foot-wide and 20-foot-high LED screens atop barges — since last year. Complaints ranged from the “eyesore” nature of the billboards to the potential danger their presence could cause to passing distracted drivers.

“We go to the waterfront to find peace of mind, not a neon sign,” State Sen. Andrew Gounardes, who represents a swath of southern Brooklyn, told the Brooklyn Eagle earlier this summer.

The bill, signed Tuesday morning, will fine barge operators $1,000 on first violation and $5,000 for all subsequent offenses.

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“Floating billboards are an unsightly public nuisance and public safety hazard,” said Assembly Member Richard Gottfried in an email, who sponsored the bill in the State Assembly. “They can be distracting to boaters and mar the otherwise beautiful environment of our local waterways with unwanted advertisements.”

The digital billboards, which advertised everything from the Brooklyn Nets to Heineken to “The Grinch,” have been spotted marring the waterfront from Greenpoint to Bay Ridge and up and down the Hudson River.

“Billboards belong in Times Square, not in the middle of the Hudson and East Rivers,” said Manhattan State Sen. Brad Hoylman, who sponsored the bill. “New Yorkers deserve to have a respite on our waterfront from the barrage of modern life.”

A legal battle began in March between the city and Ballyhoo Media, the Miami-based advertising company responsible for the floating ads. The city argued the company was violating zoning laws, but attorneys for Ballyhoo contended that the waters were under state jurisdiction. The new state legislation cedes authority around advertising in local waterways to municipalities —making Ballyhoo’s argument moot.

Ballyhoo did not respond to a request for comment.

Members of the New York City Council are looking to ratchet up enforcement against would-be waterfront ad exhibitionists and are currently considering a bill that would quadruple the fine from $25,000 per violation, per day, to $100,000.

“When kids in Bay Ridge go to Shore Road park, they don’t need to be barraged by flashing lights advertising the latest video game,” said Councilmember Justin Brannan, who introduced the council bill with Councilmember Mark Levine. “I applaud Albany for taking action to make these monstrosities a thing of the past by making it clear they are not allowed and with steep fines to back that up.”

The state law goes into effect immediately.

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  1. Ro from Park Slope

    Applause to all who made this environmentally sound vote come to pass. It is cleansing for our eyes. It is freeing for the soul’s inspiration along our island perimeters. And, most of all, it is very good ecology for the waters.