New York City Council Member Bill deBlasio: NYC Department of Buildings Must Reprioritize, Make Safety Number One Job

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City Hall - Today, NYC Councilmember Bill de Blasio joined outdoor advertising industry representatives, union members, and other elected officials at a press conference to call on the Department of Buildings (DOB) to end its unreasonable crackdown on advertising signs installed on buildings, and to instead place greater focus on overseeing the safety hazards involved in construction and development projects.

Press Conference at City Hall discussing outdoor advertising

Billboards are an essential and cost-effective means of marketing for local small businesses. And just as importantly, they are a necessary revenue stream for landlords during these tough times in the real estate market

City Hall - Today, New York City Councilmember Bill de Blasio joined outdoor advertising industry representatives, union members, and other elected officials at a press conference to call on the Department of Buildings (DOB) to end, what he belives is its unreasonable crackdown on advertising signs installed on buildings, and to instead place greater focus on overseeing the safety hazards involved in construction and development projects.

"While New York City's economy suffers, the DOB is going after an industry that supports thousands of local jobs and provides critical revenue to building owners throughout the city. The DOB over zealously targets outdoor advertisers and grossly over-penalizes them for non-harmful violations, while serving comparatively smaller fines for numerous potentially life-threatening violations at construction sites, including many related to crane operation," said deBlasio.

Councilmember de Blasio called for the DOB to 1) revise its penalty schedule so that it does not inflict unreasonable harm on the advertising industry while going lighter on safety issues; 2) end the practice of issuing what he feels are excessive violations; and 3) come to the table to work collaboratively with the industry and those who rely on it to reform billboard regulations.

"Given the danger inherently involved in the construction and maintenance of buildings, ensuring New Yorkers' safety must be the DOB's top priority. We saw last year just how grave the consequences can be when these regulations do not receive adequate enforcement. I intend to work with the Department of Buildings, my colleagues in the City Council and the industry to develop clear, consistent policies that enhance the protection of our City's residents from construction related safety hazards without strangling the outdoor advertising industry," said deBlasio.

Recent analyses illustrate that all but one of the penalties issued for crane and derrick violations are far lower than penalties for outdoor advertising violations. For example, exceeding the zoning size limit for a billboard nets a fine of $10,000. By contrast, operating a crane without a certificate of onsite inspection - an obvious safety issue - only costs violators $2,400. The large discrepancy between these two fines and others illustrates the need for the DOB to reassess its priorities. In addition, industry representatives estimate that the sheer number of violations received have increased over the past two years by a range of 400 - 1,000%.

"New York is the advertising capitol of the world, and billboards are as important to the city's character and economy as yellow cabs, Broadway shows, and parades," said Ari Noe, CEO of OTR Media. "But when it comes to imposing fines, the Buildings Department has put a target on our backs, and is threatening jobs in the process. We have tried repeatedly to meet with the Buildings Department to facilitate a rational process that makes sense for the city yet doesn't cripple the industry - unfortunately to no avail. We appreciate the effort now being made by Councilmember de Blasio and other members of the Council to bring sanity to this situation."

"Billboards are an essential and cost-effective means of marketing for local small businesses. And just as importantly, they are a necessary revenue stream for landlords during these tough times in the real estate market," said landlord David Sitt, vice president of Sitt Asset Management LLC. "All we're asking is that the Buildings Department regulations be fair and reasonable."

Local law 14 of 2001 set the maximum penalty for outdoor advertising violations at $15,000. Industry representatives report, however, that the DOB often issues as many as eight different violations for each sign, totaling anywhere from $80,000 - $120,000 per sign.

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Freya Reil

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