De Blasio Administration Sues to Remove “Water-Based” Billboards from City Waterways

Exhibit from lawsuit against Ballyhoo Media showing the company’s advertising for floating billboards across City waterways. Image Credit: Mayor’s Office/ NYC Law Department Affirmative Litigation Division

The City is seeking thousands of dollars per day in fines for the ongoing and repeated violations. On March 27, 2019, the Mayor’s Office announced a lawsuit against Ballyhoo Media, Inc., a water-based billboard company, for repeatedly violating local laws by displaying “Times Square-style” billboards on Manhattan and Brooklyn waterways. The billboards began popping up last Fall and are LED signs on barges, and the City alleges in the suit that the signs create a “public nuisance,” and violate the New York City Zoning Resolution. The City seeks an injunction to prohibit Ballyhoo from operating the billboards and fines of up to $25,000 per violation, per day for Ballyhoo Media’s ongoing and repeated violations.

The current zoning laws prohibit advertising signage in waterways within the view of any major highway or bridges, and waterways adjacent to any three major types of zoning districts, residential, commercial, and manufacturing. Ballyhoo states the boat’s standard route begins on the Hudson River in midtown, heads southbound around Battery Park, and continues up the East River to Roosevelt Island.

Despite being notified by the Law Department, the company continued to display the signs. The case is filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and is being litigated by the Law Department’s Affirmative Litigation Division.

Mayor Bill de Blasio stated, “Our waterways aren’t Times Square. These floating eye-sores have no place on them. Ballyhoo is operating in direct violation of the law, and we are filing this suit to put a stop to it.”

Department of City Planning Director Marisa Lago stated, “New York City’s waterways are among our most precious public resources. Decades ago, planners had the foresight to write zoning regulations to prevent advertising on our rivers and harbor, protecting their natural beauty. Just because technology makes these ads more visible, doesn’t make them legal.”

Corporation Counsel Zachary W. Carter stated, “As detailed in our complaint, Ballyhoo continues to operate its water-based ads in defiance of local laws intended to further traffic safety and promote the various uses of waterfront areas for the public. Ballyhoo openly promotes its large, water-based, LED billboards as specifically designed to attract the attention of drivers, necessarily posing a serious safety hazard on busy waterfront highways. We have asked the Court to impose civil penalties upon Ballyhoo and to order the company to abate its violations in the best interest and safety of the public.”

To read the complaint, click here.


By: Samantha Albanese. (Samantha Albanese is a CityLaw intern, and a New York Law School student, Class of 2019).


One thought on “De Blasio Administration Sues to Remove “Water-Based” Billboards from City Waterways

  1. A second prong of attack, would be to work with the Coast Guard which regulates vessels. Are the billboard-carrying barges in full compliance with regulations? Do they create a hazard to navigation by distracting other pilots? Do the LED lights and configuration of the vessel make it difficult for other pilots to determine the course of the barge carrying them?

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