On the south-east corner of Times Square, where Minnie Mouse and Spider Man wait for customers, a crowd of tourists can be seen standing still and staring up at a billboard expectantly.
Every ten minutes or so, the screen they’re staring at projects their own faces back at them, which sets off a flurry of big-screen selfies.
But it turns out this billboard, and others plastering Times Square, may actually be illegal. Under a federal highway beautification law, the billboards are too big – the law states that highways should not be larger than 1200 square feet.
Last week, the city’s transportation commissioner said the billboards may have to be taken down, or New York could risk losing ten percent of its federal highway funds.
The Department of Transportation seems determined to find a solution to keep the billboards in place, despite the federal law.
But not all New Yorkers would be upset to see the billboards go.
“I think they’re a total eyesore!” said Sam Williams, 24, who was passing through Times Square on Monday afternoon on her way home to Queens.
Metro took a look at the most in-your-face billboards, the ones we might tear down first if it was up to us.
The Revlon ad with the interactive camera has to be at the top of the list. With sentimental quotes about love on repeat and #loveison at the bottom of every screen, it’s not only tacky but also slows down the foot traffic in Times Square even more as tourists stop and wait to see their faces blown up on the big screen.
“Yeah, that one is the worst,” said Williams.
It’s also hard to go past the ads at the north and south ends of Times Square, several stories high and a mish-mash of dizzying moving ads.
And let’s not forget the full wall of advertising below the Marriott Marquis on the west side of Times Square – who needs nice architecture when the walls are made up of giant screens?
For Arlene Webster, 70, from Manhattan, it’s the giant billboards of scantily clad girls that would go first.
“I don’t think this is very appropriate, those naked girls,” said Webster, referring specifically to H&M’s summer bikini billboards.
“This 42nd street is more for tourists than for locals,” she said, “It’s too much.”
Others, though, think losing the billboards would be a sad day for the city.
“New York City won’t be the same without billboards, it’s hard to imagine,” said Hemen Desai, 37, an e-commerce manager who works in Times Square, “Whether it would do anything to our daily life, nothing.”
“They’re awesome. They attract the tourists and stuff. It’s amusing,” said Simon Alviar, 27, from Queens.
A spokesperson for the New York City Department of Transportation told Metro in a statement that the department is working with the state Department of Transportation and the city Department of Buildings to find a way to keep the signs untouched.
“Signage will not be removed,” the spokesperson said in the statement, “The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (Map-21) upgraded all principal arterials to the National Highway System, which includes streets in and around Times Square. These routes must comply with all federal regulations, including the Highway Beautification Act. We are working with NYSDOT and City DOB to identify a solution in which signage will remain unchanged.“