<body> Public Ad Campaign: Fuel Outdoor-Illegal Ads
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Thursday, July 3, 2008

Fuel Outdoor-Illegal Ads

This article appeared on illegalsigns.ca and should be read by all New Yorkers. It not only heightens the deep distrust I have for the public advertising industry but makes real the lack of respect they have for the city, its government and thus its people.

Fuel Outdoor Builds 324 Illegal Signs in New York City Then Sues New York City

by Rami Tabello

We previously took a look at Fuel Outdoor in Fuel Outdoor - The Dirtiest Billboard Company in America. Fuel Outdoor is expanding nationwide with an aggressive legal strategy that sees them build hundreds of illegal billboards in a city, then sue the city on First Amendment grounds.

In New York City, Fuel is rampant. The problem is, they won their case against Los Angeles in Federal Court because of Los Angeles’ street furniture program, and they are attempting to take that precedent nationwide. Here ares some of the 324 illegal Fuel signs that are popping up all over NYC:

According to the lawsuit that Fuel filed :

-Out of the 360 signs Fuel installed in NYC, 324 are illegal under the NYC sign code. Paragraph 4.

-NYC’s sign code is “stark government hypocrisy” because it doesn’t apply to New York’s street furniture program. Paragraph 1.

-The sign code’s justifications are “blatantly pretextual.” “It is axiomatic that the City cannot infringe on core First Amendment rights when its reasons for doing so are blatantly pretextual especially where, as here, the City’s true motivation is to destroy competition and reserve for itself a monopoly in the outdoor advertising business.” Paragraph 11.

-Fuel should be allowed to operate its panels until a comprehensive sign code is implemented that also applies to street furniture. Paragraph 12.

-Fuel installed signs visible from the sidewalk but inside the walls of parking garages, like the ones in the last photo above. Fuel claims that such signs are not subject to the NYC sign code because they can’t be seen when the parking garage door is down. Page 7, footnote.

-Cemusa’s street furniture contract allows up to 200 scrolling ads. Fuel’s ads don’t scroll. “This provides yet another reason why Cemusa’s bus shelter signs are even more dangerous and unattractive than Fuel’s panel signs allegedly are.” Paragraph 58

-Cemusa’s ads are equipped with Bluetooth technology “that actually enables these signs to detect passing cellular telephones and to send advertisements directly to these passing phones…. Needless to say, the fact that unsuspecting motorists may be bombarded with text message advertisements emanating from nearby bus shelters provides yet another reason why -Cemusa’s bus shelter signs are, if anything, significantly more dangerous and unattractive.”

The City’s scheme for regulating outdoor advertising therefore does not directly advance its purported interest in promoting traffic safety and aesthetics and is therefore unconstitutional.

Here is the whole complaint: [PDF]

According to this letter [PDF], New York City entered into an agreement to stay prosecution against Fuel’s signs pending the outcome of this case. Fuel apparently continued to build new signs, and the agreement does not cover all the Fuel signs in NYC:

The Fuel case is scheduled to be heard in tandem with a case against New York by Clear Channel. More on the Clear Channel case soon.

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