Landmarks wins court order to remove illegal signs

598 Broadway. Image: Cityland.


Landmarks alleged that building owner and sign company repeatedly installed advertising signs without approvals. In April 1999, 598 Broadway Realty Associates Inc. obtained a permit from Landmarks to install a single advertising sign on the Houston Street-facing facade of a twelve-story building at 598 Broadway in the SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District in Manhattan. The permit was valid until April 2005. In August 1999, 598 Broadway applied to Landmarks to install a different sign, but Landmarks withdrew the application after 598 Broadway failed to provide additional information. A year later 598 Broadway submitted another application that Landmarks withdrew for the same reason.

In September 2005, a Landmarks enforcement officer observed that the 1999-approved sign had been removed and replaced with two signs bearing the logo of Colossal Inc., a company specializing in “painted wallscapes.” Landmarks issued warning letters to 598 Broadway for installing signs without permits and advised it to apply for permits within twenty days. Landmarks issued notices of violations after 598 Broadway failed to apply for permits. The signs were painted over, and Landmarks revoked the NOVs.

In late 2007 and early 2008 a member of Landmarks’ staff and a Landmarks enforcement officer observed two different signs on the building’s Houston Street facade. In February 2008, Landmarks issued Colossal Inc., which had identified itself as a tenant/lessee of 598 Broadway, a permit to remove the signs. Three days later, however, Landmarks’ staff observed a different sign on the building, and Landmarks issued another warning letter to 598 Broadway. The sign, however, was removed and Landmarks issued a notice of completion. 

After observing two new signs on the building, Landmarks in July 2009 issued NOVs for failing to apply for a sign permit. 598 Broadway did not appear at a hearing on the NOVs and was issued default penalties. On at least ten more occasions between September 2009 and May 2011, Landmarks’ staff observed different signs on the building, of which none had been approved by Landmarks.

Citing the repeated violations of the landmarks law, Landmarks in June 2011 sought a preliminary injunction ordering 598 Broadway and Colossal to submit a complete application to remove all wall signs installed without proper permits, and to refrain from installing any new signs without first obtaining Landmarks’ approval.

In response, 598 Broadway and Colossal argued that Landmarks had not been harmed by the unapproved signs because the building was located in an area with many other wall signs. Citing the July 2009 NOV, the companies argued that Landmarks was precluded from seeking the injunction because the companies had already been found in violation of the landmarks law.

Justice Barbara Jaffe granted the preliminary injunction, finding that Landmarks was not precluded from seeking the injunction because the illegal signs leading to the 2009 NOV default judgment had been removed, and that Landmarks now sought to remove the current signs and to prevent the future installation of unpermitted signs. Justice Jaffe ruled that Landmarks demonstrated that 598 Broadway and Colossal were aware of the landmarks law and that they failed to obtain the necessary permits. Further, Justice Jaffe found that Landmarks did not need to demonstrate it would suffer irreparable harm because the violation Landmarks sought to enjoin resembled a zoning violation.

Landmarks v. 598 Broadway Realty Associates Inc., 2011 N.Y. Slip Op. 33018U (N.Y. Cty. Sup. Ct. Nov. 14, 2011) (Jaffe, J.).

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