Council Members Call for Stronger Enforcement and Stiffer Fines on Floating TV Billboards

**RELEASE** Monday, March 25th 2019
Contact: Jake Sporn, 516-946-5253 // jsporn@council.nyc.gov (Levine)
              Jonathan Yedin, 917-589-7855 // jyedin@council.nyc.gov (Brannan)

City Hall, NY -- Today, NYC Council Members Mark Levine of Manhattan andJustin Brannan of Brooklyn announced they would be introducing legislation to dramatically increase the fine on advertising companies violating City law by operating barges equipped with large LED illuminated billboards. The bright LED screens on the barges--first seen in October of 2018 around New York Harbor and the two rivers leading into it--are 20 feet tall and 60 feet long, causing a nuisance to the surrounding communities and a dangerous distraction to drivers on the City’s highways.

Earlier this year, the New York City Law Department made clear in a letter to Ballyhoo Media, Inc., the company responsible for operating the barges, that the corporation is in violation of several provisions of the NYC Administrative Code and other laws. Specifically, the City’s Zoning Resolution states that, "no moving or stationary advertising sign shall be displayed on a vessel plying waterways adjacent to Commercial Districts and within view from an arterial highway," including the FDR, the BQE, and Henry Hudson Parkway.

Currently, the penalty for violating the City’s Zoning Resolution is up to $25,000 per daily violation. However, the maximum fine pales in comparison to the profits earned by these companies as the “pricing of a 30-second spot in a 2-minute loop on the boats is $55,000 in NYC,” according to Pivot Media Ventures, a Ballyhoo Inc. affiliate.

Council Members Levine and Brannan are seeking to quadruple the maximum fine to $100,000 per daily violation, in addition to calling on the NYPD to step up enforcement of the barges. The legislation will be introduced on Thursday, March 28th, and is co-sponsored by Council Members Carlina Rivera, Margaret Chin, Helen Rosenthal, Stephen Levin and Keith Powers. 

“Nobody wants to be walking along New York Harbor or the Rockaways only to be visually assaulted by a 1,200 square foot TV screen running commercials on loop,” said Council Member Mark Levine. “These barges are more than just an obnoxious eyesore, they’re a danger to drivers on the City’s arterial highways. 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.”

“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 Council Member Justin 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. These LED barges are not only ugly, obnoxious and illegal but they are dangerous to already often distracted drivers. Councilman Levine and I both agree that substantially upping the daily fines will make it financially crippling for these companies to break the law with these waterway advertisements.”

Said Council Member Keith Powers, “New York City’s waterways are not meant to double as advertising space. These billboard barges are operating against the law, and there must be clear consequences and better enforcement so they get that message. I thank Council Members Levine and Brannan for their efforts.”

“Waterfront Alliance commends Council Members Levine and Brannan for placing stronger regulations on the ad barge in order to better manage and preserve our waterways. While we celebrate the increased mixed use of our harbor, the visual pollution of the ad barge is an irritant for waterfront park-goers and a safety hazard for maritime users of our waterways,” Roland Lewis, President and CEO, Waterfront Alliance.

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