City Councilmen Mark Levine (D-Manhattan Valley, Manhattanville, Hamilton Heights) and Justin Brannan (D-Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights) announced yesterday that they would be introducing legislation to inflict harsher penalties on advertising companies that illicitly operate barges equipped with bright LED billboards.
In October of 2018, the ad company Ballyhoo Media Inc. unleashed one such barge onto Manhattan’s near-shore waters, with an LED display measuring 20 by 60 feet in area. A couple months later, the New York City Law Department sent a letter to Ballyhoo, informing them that their barge violated several provisions of the NYC Administrative Code.
As of now, the penalty fine for such a violation is $25,000 – but Levine and Brannan don’t think it’s enough. Their legislation seeks to quadruple the fine to $100,000. Levine pointed out that billboards like Ballyhoo’s aren’t just a nuisance; they’re a dangerous liability.
“These barges are more than just an obnoxious eyesore, they’re a danger to drivers on the City’s arterial highways,” said Levine. “Ballyhoo is in clear violation of City Law. Worse, they’ve even bragged to other markets about ‘running unimpeded in New York.’ We need the NYPD to step up their enforcement of existing laws and we need to increase the fines to the point that it’s no longer economical for Ballyhoo to keep flouting the law. I’m proud to work with my incredible colleague from Bay Ridge, Councilman Justin Brannan to protect the sanctity of public waters.”
Brannan argued that New Yorkers, who are already used to being bombarded with advertisements everywhere they go, don’t need companies like Ballyhoo exacerbating the issue.
“At a time when every square inch of our world feels like it’s covered in advertisements, visual pollution is a real thing and our waterways should be off completely limits,” said Brannan. “The New York harbor is not Times Square. A massive floating LED barge is not the same as the old crop duster flying over Jones Beach telling you to try the fried grouper special at the local seafood shack.”
The legislation will be introduced this Thursday, and is co-sponsored by Council Members Margaret Chin (D-Battery Park City, Chinatown), Carlina Rivera (D-East Village, Gramercy Park), Helen Rosenthal (D-Central Park, Lincoln Square), Keith Powers (D-Upper East Side, Carnegie Hill) and Stephen Levin (D-Boerum Hill, Brooklyn Heights).