Brooklyn Boro

‘Eyesore’ ad barge booted from New York’s waterways

October 9, 2019 Scott Enman
Lawyers representing Ballyhoo, a Miami-based ad barge business, claim the city has no authority over the waters surrounding New York City. Eagle file photo by Todd Maisel

The massive Times Square-style advertising barge that popped up in New York’s waterways last October will no longer operate in the state, according to a settlement reached on Monday between the city and the company responsible for operating the boat.

The announcement, first reported by the New York Post, ends a roughly seven-month legal battle between the city’s Law Department and Ballyhoo Media.

“Our legal action has resulted in a big win for New Yorkers,” said acting corporation counsel Georgia M. Pestana. “Ballyhoo will no longer operate its water-based ads anywhere in New York State in defiance of laws intended to further traffic safety and the public’s enjoyment of the waterfront. We will vigorously enforce this consent decree through additional legal action should Ballyhoo violate the terms of this settlement.”

The city filed a lawsuit against Ballyhoo — a company based in Miami, where floating billboards are ubiquitous along the beaches — back in March. Lawyers for the city argued that the company was violating city zoning laws, while attorneys for Ballyhoo maintained that the waters surrounding New York City were actually under the jurisdiction of the state.

The city received a preliminary injunction that restricted Ballyhoo from operating within 1,500 feet of the city and within view of any major roadway.

New York City’s laws prohibit “the display of an advertising sign on any vessel in a waterway adjacent to a residential, commercial, or manufacturing district and within view of an arterial highway.”

The boat and its 20-foot-high, double-sided screen could be clearly seen from several roadways, including the BQE, Belt Parkway, FDR Drive and West Side Highway.

Even after the New York Legislature enacted a law in August banning digital billboards from the state’s waterways, Ballyhoo argued that it could still operate, according to the city.

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If Ballyhoo violates the settlement agreement, the company will be forced to pay a $100,000 fine.

The 60-foot-wide barge upset many residents and local politicians, who labeled it “ugly,” “obnoxious” and an “eyesore.”

The boat appeared in New York City’s waters in October 2018 and routinely traveled down the Brooklyn waterfront on the East River from Greenpoint to Bay Ridge, as well as along the Hudson River.

Advertisers included the Brooklyn Nets, Heineken and “The Grinch.”

Councilmember Justin Brannan, who represents Bay Ridge and has been one of the most outspoken critics of the billboard, took to Twitter to celebrate the settlement.

“Looks like it’s finally time for these obnoxious LED barges to make like Enya and sail away,” the politician wrote.

Adam Shapiro, CEO and president of Ballyhoo, did not immediately respond to the Brooklyn Eagle’s requests for comment.

“Ballyhoo Media complied with all local, state and federal laws during our time in New York and still has the legal right to safely operate in New York waters,” Shapiro said in a statement published in the New York Daily News. “But we have decided to stop fighting with the City and State and instead focus on pursuing opportunities elsewhere.

“We retain the right to return to any waterway outside New York, including New Jersey.”

The company intends to relocate its vessel to Florida, according to the settlement.

Follow reporter Scott Enman on Twitter.

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