Sign companies claim billboard fines are crippling the ad industry
DAILY NEWS CITY HALL BUREAU CHIEF
Monday, March 2nd 2009, 7:54 PM
New York's crackdown on oversized billboards is hurting the ad industry, as sign companies say inspectors are hitting them with huge fines for minor infractions.
"The fines given to one single billboard can go over $100,000, but the fines issued in the East Side crane collapses were a fraction of that," he noted.
"It's like the world turned upside down."
The crackdown began in 2006 after the City Council, reacting to community pressure, passed tough new restrictions on billboards next to major roads and on outsized ads covering entire building walls.
"It's there to address a real problem," said Councilwoman Melinda Katz (D-Queens), who pushed those laws through. "We put together a huge coalition to make this happen."
Each violation can cost up to $25,000, and each sign can trigger multiple violations - which city officials said is necessary to deter signs that generate enormous profits.
"This is the same Buildings Department that should be cracking down on unsafe buildings."
Billboard companies have sued to block the new rules, and city officials have been reluctant to discuss the dispute while the case is in the courts.
When the Buildings Department targeted large outdoor signs in 2007, it said 20% of building owners voluntarily removed signs when told they were illegal.
Agency spokesman Tony Sclafani defended the crackdown.
"Illegal signs can pose a danger to the public if not safely installed," Sclafani said. "The safety of New Yorkers is the department's top priority.
Follow up Article By SALLY GOLDENBERG
A city councilman running for public advocate took campaign contributions from billboard companies just days after publicly demanding looser regulations on the industry, The Post has learned.
Councilman Bill de Blasio (D-Brooklyn), one of six public-advocate candidates this year, took in $8,000 from billboard companies a few days after he called on the city to ease the reins at a City Hall press conference, campaign records show.
During the January conference, de Blasio criticized the city for what he called an "unreasonable crackdown" on outdoor-advertising companies.
At the time, he said the Department of Buildings "overzealously targets outdoor advertisers and grossly overpenalizes them for nonharmful violations, while serving comparatively smaller fines for numerous potentially life-threatening violations."
"I am proud to support local businesses," de Blasio said yesterday through spokeswoman Gwen Rocco.