The billboards pose a serious safety hazard on busy waterfront highways, according to city officials.

Courtesy of Ballyhoo

New York City is suing a company for displaying Times Square-style billboards on a barge that travels along the Manhattan and Brooklyn waterfronts, saying the water-based ads defy local laws.

The de Blasio administration on Wednesday announced a lawsuit against Ballyhoo Media, Inc. seeking penalties of up to $25,000 per violation, per day. Ballyhoo markets its ability to reach drivers on the West Side Highway and FDR Drive as well as pedestrians, cyclists, ferry passengers, and residents along the water, according to city officials.

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

Ballyhoo Media describes itself as “the newest and most effective form of beach advertising.” Its Facebook page is packed with photos of its floating billboards, as well as behind-the-scenes photos taken from their NYC barge. A recent post asks, “Which woman inspires you on #InternationalWomensDay?” and shares a photo of an International Women’s Day billboard floating on the Hudson River. The ads have been spotted along city waterfronts since September 2018.

 

But the billboards pose a serious safety hazard on busy waterfront highways, according to city officials, who also claim the ads detract from the city’s splendor.

“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,” said Department of City Planning Director Marisa Lago.

Ballyhoo bites back

Ballyhoo Media’s CEO Adam Shapiro told Metro Wednesday that the city did its due diligence before launching in New York City. The company commissioned law firms who determined it is operating in accordance with all current laws and zoning resolutions, according to Shapiro.

"We look forward to either resolving these issues with city officials, or to the judicial determination affirming our right to continue our livelihoods," Shapiro said. "Advertising along the city’s waterways is not [a] new activity, Ballyhoo just happens to be the newest. We love the waterways and have developed this platform to be an asset to the community. Ballyhoo has proven to provide unique, one-of-a-kind experiences that has been received with overwhelmingly positive community support. We are confident that New York City will see the value and excitement we bring to the waterfront.”

Multiple state and city officials weighed in on the issue in public statements Wednesday, many of them bashing the company’s “flagrant disregard for the law.”

“If these guys won’t stop breaking the law by flaunting these obnoxious floating billboards in our harbor, they deserve to be sued and I applaud the Mayor for taking action,” said Council Member Justin Brannan. “These monstrosities are ugly and illegal and soon they will be a thing of the past.”

What do you think? Email Letters@Metro.us to weigh in.

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