Council Adopts Law to Extend Waivers of Accessory Sign Violations

Image credit: New York City Council.

On March 19, 2023 the New York City Council adopted Local Law 43 (2023). The measure was originally introduced as Introduction 886 by Council Member Keith Powers in January 2023. The law extends a freeze on issuing penalties to property owners who are in violation of certain rules that govern accessory signage through January 1, 2025. A previous freeze was already put into place via Local Law 28 (2019) which started June of 2019.

According to the New York City Zoning Resolution, an accessory sign is a sign displaying a business’s name on the same property where the business is operated. Other accessory signs may display the business’s phone number, address, or the services or products offered. Accessory signs are regulated in New York City in regard to location, size, height, projection over the sidewalk, and illumination. The specific requirements for an accessory sign depend upon the zoning designation affecting the property. For example, residential districts are most restrictive, commercial districts are more permissive, and manufacturing districts are most permissive of accessory sign characteristics. Special districts, historic districts, landmark designations, and proximity to arterial highways may also impact allowable signage.

Presently, violations of sign requirements are punished depending on the severity of the violation. Fines can range from $800 to $12,500 for violations which do require immediate corrective action, and $10,000 to $25,000 for violations which pose an immediate risk to life, health, safety, property, or public interest.

The new law will extent Local Law 28 (2019) which waived the penalties for violations that do not pose an imminent risk to public health or safety. The moratorium was already extended once in 2021. Since the original passage of the law in 2019, the same law also created a temporary assistance program operated by the Department of Buildings which provides support for property owners charged with violating the accessory sign laws.

Council Member Powers, who represents Midtown and the Upper East Side of Manhattan, called the measure a “common sense law” to give the Council more time to determine a path forward on providing business owners with greater ability to understand and adapt to accessory sign regulation without being penalized for unknowingly violating the law. Department of Buildings Deputy Commissioner Guillermo Patino testified at the Committee of Housing and Building hearing in January in support of the bill. Deputy Commissioner Patino highlighted how the existing moratorium has allowed the Department of Buildings to focus on educating business owners on sign requirements as opposed to taking punitive action.

The law officially went into effect immediately upon its adoption, retroactive to January 1.

By: Ryan Myler (Ryan is a New York Law School student, Class of 2024.)




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