$70,000 illegal sign fine imposed on garage owner

Fine reduced because owner removed illegal sign prior to first scheduled hearing. Buildings issued Term-Fulton Realty Corp. four notices of violation in connection with an outdoor advertising sign covering more than six levels of its seven-story garage at 54 Fulton Street in Manhattan. The sign remained in place for another ten months, and Buildings issued the owner seven additional NOVs, all noted as second-offense violations.

At a hearing, the owner claimed it had not authorized anyone to install signs on its building. The owner also claimed it had not been aware of the sign’s presence. An ALJ sustained the NOVs, finding the owner had acted as an outdoor advertising company. The ALJ further found that the owner’s defense was not credible. The ALJ imposed a $140,000 penalty because the NOVs were second offenses. The owner appealed to the Environmental Control Board, arguing that increased penalties were not warranted because the owner was not an outdoor advertising company.

The Board affirmed the ALJ’s decision, but reduced the total penalty amount to $70,000 for the second-offense violations. The owner qualified as an outdoor advertising company because it had, directly or indirectly, made space on its building available for advertising purposes. The full $140,000 penalty, however, was not appropriate because the owner had removed the sign before the first scheduled hearing. The Board noted that if a violation was eligible for a lesser penalty and the violation had been corrected before the first scheduled hearing, the lesser penalty had to be imposed.

Term-Fulton Realty Corp., ECB Appeal No. 0900118 (Sept. 24, 2009). CITYADMIN


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