Volume 75, Number 13 | August 17 - 23, 2005

Villager photo by Jefferson Siegel

Assemblymember Scott Stringer points to an illegal sidewalk shed billboard, as he is joined at Aug. 7 press conference by, to his right, State Senator Tom Duane and Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

Duane and Stringer call for buildings to shed ads

By Jefferson Siegel

Advertisers crave eyeballs. In New York, they’ve found some newly creative, and often illegal, ways to reach those already overwhelmed eyeballs.

The overheated real estate market has resulted in countless streets darkened by protective sheds and scaffolding. In all that blank plywood, advertisers see an opportunity to display sizeable ads. The result, in some cases, has been blocklong canvases of auto, alcohol and bank ads.

Assemblymember Scott Stringer and State Senator Tom Duane recently called on the city to crack down on the illegal ads. With an almost blocklong billboard ad for a new car from Infiniti attached to a sidewalk shed serving as a backdrop, Stringer and Duane made their case against the visually intrusive and illegal ads. They were joined by Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.

Standing across from the auto ad that completely encased a sidewalk shed around the building with an HSBC bank branch on the northeast corner of 14th St. and Eighth Ave., Stringer, a candidate for Manhattan borough president, said, “We’re calling on the city to take down these illegal advertising sheds immediately.”

Stringer criticized the visual clutter that’s overwhelming every available space within sight. “What’s happening is the ad-inization of Manhattan,” he said. Stringer called the shed ads, “a black market for corporate enterprises” because of reports ad companies pay more for scaffolds to remain in place even after the shed’s protective purpose has been served.

As Stringer spoke, an aide held up photos of illegal sidewalk-shed ads, many of them at Downtown locations including Wall, Nassau, Varick and Broome Sts.

Duane noted that “there are regulations on the books in the city of New York that need to be enforced.” He said New Yorkers need to know how to take action against the overwhelmingly intrusive and illegal signs. “All over the city we see many building owners who leave scaffolding up for tremendous periods of time,” he added.

“We’re seeing these [billboards] really proliferate and it’s become like the wild, wild West,” Berman said, adding, “there’s no regulation of them whatsoever. The city is, unfortunately, not doing anything about preventing them”

The ads came to widespread attention earlier this year after scaffolding was erected around the Flatiron Building in the landmarked Ladies’ Mile District. When a clothing store ad was draped down the entire length of the building’s 22 floors, an avalanche of complaints followed and the ad was removed. A huge Coke ad on a sidewalk shed on the Woolworth Building also drew fire.

Currently, sanctions against the ads are complaint driven. Jennifer Givner, a Department of Buildings spokesperson, said, “You are not permitted to have advertising signs on any sidewalk shed,” unless the shed “is covering up the sign for” a business in that building, like an existing drugstore or supermarket. When inspectors are called to write up an illegal display, “violations are issued to the owners of a building,” she added.

Subsequent to the press conference by Stringer and Duane, the Infiniti ad was removed from the sidewalk shed at 14th St. and Eighth Ave.

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