Court Vacates BSA Denial of Advertising Sign Registration

Court ruled the signs were not under City jurisdiction.  On March 26, 2012 the Department of Buildings issued Notice of Sign Registration Rejection letters denying registration for twenty-one advertising signs owned by CBS Outdoor Inc.  The Department based its rejection on the signs being too close to an arterial highway, in violation of the City Zoning Resolution.  On January 29, 2013 the Board of Standards and Appeals upheld the rejection.  CBS Outdoor, joined by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, filed suit to vacate the decision.

CBS Outdoor argued its signs were located on property not subject to the City Zoning Resolution, as nine were sited on property owned or under control of the MTA and twelve were sited on property owned by CSX Transportation Inc.  CBS Outdoor argued Public Authorities Law §1266(8) specifically prohibited local resolutions from having jurisdiction over MTA facilities. and that Buildings’ rejection of signs on CSX Transportation property constituted a taking of private property under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment.  The City argued §1266(8) does not apply in this case because of an exception in the law for “facilities that are devoted to purposes other than transportation or transit purposes”.  The City then argued “transportation or transit purposes” was limited to conveying people and applying Zoning Resolution regulations in this instance would not hinder the MTA in those purposes.  The City further argued the takings claim was not ripe for determination because the CSX signs could still qualify as a legal non-conforming use.

On September 8, 2015 Justice Michael D. Stallman of New York County decided in favor of CBS Outdoor, vacating and annulling the rejection letters issued by Buildings.  In his decision, Justice Stallman relied on previous case law holding the Public Authorities Law permits the use of facilities to generate revenue for the MTA and still classify as “railroad facilities”.  The MTA’s use of overpasses or rights-of-way as sites for advertising signs does not convert them into facilities devoted to a purpose other than transportation or transit, leaving them exempt from the Zoning Resolution.  Justice Stallman agreed with the City that the takings claim was not ripe for review and remanded the matter of the CSX-property signs to Buildings for determination of legal non-conforming use status.

CBS Outdoor, Inc. v. City of New York, 16 N.Y.S.3d 411 (Supp. 2015) (Attorneys: Baker & Hostetler LLP, John Siegal and Kendall Wangsgard of counsel, for CBS Outdoor Inc.; Peter Sistrom for Metropolitan Transportation Authority; Herrick Feinstein LLP, David Feuerstein of counsel, for Lamar Advertising of Penn, LLC; McGuierWoods LLP, Michael Discoll of counsel, for CSX Transportation, Inc.; Michael A Cardozo, Sheryl R. Neufeld of counsel, for City of New York, New York City Board of Standards and Appeals, New York City Department of Buildings).

By:  Michael Twomey (Michael is a CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2014).

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