Stay granted in Sixth Avenue sign removal case

Building owner challenged ALJ’s recommendation to remove advertising sign. Yung Brothers Real Estate Co., the owner of 838 Sixth Avenue, installed at least one advertising sign over a “Bratman Brothers” sign that had existed on the building’s outer wall since at least 1940. In March 2007, the owner received Notices of Violations from Buildings for failing to obtain a sign permit and for violating a 1995 zoning restriction on advertising signs. Four months later, the owner notified Buildings that it had removed the sign and applied for a permit to install another advertising sign. Buildings issued the permit, noting that the sign complied with zoning regulations based on photographs of the building dated 1940. Three months later, Buildings reversed its decision, asserting that the permit had been issued in error. The owner did not remove the sign, and Buildings issued three additional NOVs and revoked the sign permit. Buildings charged the owner with creating a public nuisance and commenced an OATH proceeding to have the sign removed.

The owner argued that it was permitted to install the sign because of the 2007 permit and claimed the sign was a prior legal nonconforming use based on the pre-existing Bratman Brothers sign. An ALJ recommended the sign be removed, finding that the owner lacked a permit and failed to demonstrate that the Bratman Brothers sign was used for advertising and not as an accessory sign. 6 CityLand 128 (Sept. 15, 2009). The owner appealed and requested a stay to prevent Buildings from removing the sign.

Justice Walter B. Tolub granted the stay, ruling that the owner would likely succeed in the challenge. Noting that Buildings had conceded the Bratman Brothers sign existed in 1940, Justice Tolub ruled that the ALJ may have improperly applied the 1961 zoning regulations when determining whether the sign qualified as a prior nonconforming use.

Yung Bros. Real Estate Co. v. LiMandri, 2009 N.Y. Slip Op. 52653U (N.Y.Cty.Sup.Ct. Dec. 29, 2009) (Tolub, J.) (Attorneys: Howard C. Crystal, for Yung Brothers; Michael A. Cardozo, Christina L. Hoggan, for LiMandri).

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