Outdoor advertising charges upheld

The center building, 23-06 Jackson Avenue, features a banner advertisement on top for John J. Ciafone’s law practice. This location was one of the ones in dispute in this case. Image Credit: Google Maps

Building owner advertised his personal law firm on residential buildings that he owned through separate corporations. Attorney John. J. Ciafone has part ownership in four different real estate corporations that own five residential or mixed-use buildings in Queens and Brooklyn. At each of his five residential buildings, Ciafone installed signage on which he advertised his personal law firm. The law firm was separate from the real estate corporation that owned each building.

The NYC Department of Buildings charged each of the residential corporations as unlawfully acting as outdoor advertising companies. The Administrative Code defines an outdoor advertising company that directly or indirectly makes space on building signage available to others as advertisement space.

OATH ruled in favor of Buildings and upheld the charges. Ciafone appealed. The Appellate Division affirmed and Ciafone appealed to the Court of Appeals.

The New York Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Buildings, holding that the word “others” in the statute is defined as separate legal entities. Ciafone could have owned the buildings under his own name, but chose to reap the benefits of corporate ownership. As such the ownership of the buildings and the law firm were separate entities. Advertising the personal law firm on the real estate owned by the corporations constituted unlawful outdoor advertising prohibited by the City’s zoning laws.

Franklin St. Realty Corp. v NYC Envtl. Control Bd., 34 N.Y.S.3d 600(2019) (2019 WL 6842949 (2019 N.Y.).

By: Hayden Boudreaux (Hayden is a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2020.)


One thought on “Outdoor advertising charges upheld

  1. Which one does not belong with the others: Pandemic, mass unemployment, decline in municipal services, and illegal advertising signs?

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