By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Floating billboards are officially banned in New York waterways, thanks to a court order by Judge Louis L. Stanton on Tuesday, reinforcing a new state law originally introduced by State Senator Brad Hoylman and signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo at the end of August.
The New York Law Department announced the settlement of a lawsuit against Ballyhoo Media, which has repeatedly displayed large floating LED billboards on a barge that traveled daily along the Manhattan and Brooklyn waterfronts, despite the law that prohibits them.
Under the law, which was originally introduced in the Senate by Hoylman and in the Assembly by Assemblymember Richard Gottfried, boats are not allowed to operate digital billboards or other billboards that use flashing or moving lights. The bill also empowers local governments to restrict or ban the use of outdoor advertising signage on vessels within 1,500 feet from shore.
Violations of the law are subject to a $1,000 civil penalty for the first violation and $5,000 for subsequent violations.
“Our legal action has resulted in a big win for New Yorkers,” said Acting Corporation Counsel Georgia Pestana. “Ballyhoo will no longer operate its water-based ads anywhere in New York State in defiance of laws intended to further traffic safety and the public’s enjoyment of the waterfront. We will vigorously enforce this consent decree through additional legal action should Ballyhoo violate the terms of this settlement.”
The media company began operating in New York City waterways in October 2018 and the city originally brought action in March, obtaining a preliminary injunction restraining the company from operating within 1,500 feet of the city and within view of any major roadway. Ballyhoo had initially submitted an argument that the company could continue operating despite the law that was enacted in August, but Ballyhoo withdrew the argument following the court order. The decree also prohibits other violations of the restrictions on water-based advertising signs and any violations by Ballyhoo are punishable by contempt of court.
According to the agreement, the company intends to relocate its boat to Florida.
“Thanks to the federal court order today, floating digital billboards are sunk in New York,” Hoylman said. “I’m glad that Ballyhoo is no longer permitted to operate its floating digital billboards in New York’s waterways. The federal court order today reinforces our new state law that says floating digital billboards are unsafe and ruin the peaceful enjoyment of the riverfront. New Yorkers don’t want a floating version of Times Square in the Hudson, East River or anywhere else.”
The case was handled by Senior Counsel Brian Horan of the Law Department’s Affirmative Litigation Division under the supervision of Division Chief Gail Rubin.