$160,000 fine for repeat billboard offenses

Property owner without a permit allowed outdoor advertising. One Maiden Lane Realty LLC leased outdoor space to a registered outdoor advertising company. Under the lease agreement, the property owner could not collect revenue from advertising signs or control advertising sign content. An officer from Buildings issued several notices of violation to the owner in June 2007 for erecting two advertising signs without a permit and for numerous zoning law violations. About a year later, Buildings issued another eight NOVs for the same offenses and charged the owner as an outdoor advertising company, seeking increased penalties.

At a hearing, Buildings argued that the owner qualified as an outdoor advertising company because it had, directly or indirectly, made space available to another for advertising purposes. An ALJ found the owner liable for each NOV, but ruled that the owner could not be considered an outdoor advertising company because it did not collect revenue from the signs and had no control over advertising sign content. Therefore, the ALJ concluded, increased penalties were not appropriate. Buildings appealed to the Environmental Control Board, arguing that indirectly or directly making advertising space available to a registered outdoor advertising company was sufficient to qualify as an outdoor advertising company even when the lessee contracted with advertisers and controlled the signage.

The Board disagreed with the ALJ, ruling that the owner had acted as an outdoor advertising company by leasing space on its building to another outdoor advertising company. Buildings did not need to prove that the owner found advertisers or erected, owned, or maintained advertising signs. The Board increased the penalty for each second offense from $1,500 to $20,000.

NYC v. One Maiden Lane Realty LLC, ECB Appeal No. 0900257 (Dec. 3, 2009). CITYADMIN

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