Update on Billboard: “Not Illegal” says TA

Following up on our inquiry, prompted by reader Andrew Porter, Brooklyn Heights Association Executive Director Judy Stanton got on the phone and found that the City Department of Buildings has no jurisdiction over the billboard (see photo) near the north end of the Promenade, because it is affixed to a building owned by the Transit Authority. Ms. Stanton then called the TA, and was told “that the sign is securely bolted to the wall and is level with the rooftop to minimize wind resistance and was installed under MTA/NYCT structural engineering specification.” Since it is evidently a source of revenue for the cash-strapped TA, it’s unlikely they’ll yield to community pressure to remove it. (Photo: McBrooklyn.)

Update: Federal legislation may provide another means of getting rid of the billboard. See BHB Ten honoree Tony Manheim’s comment on this post.

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  • Andrew Porter

    What about the arborcide I cited in the other thread? Was that done with the cooperation of the Parks Dept.?

  • Anthony A. Manheim

    All very interesting – but not responsive to the issue of whether it is legal or not. In fact, almost as irrelevant is the the statement that TA says it is not illegal. The issue is whether the federal legislation (initiated by Betty Ford during her husband’s Presidential reign in the immediate post-Nixon era, a good long while ago) prohibiting advertising billboards near to and visible from federally-supported highways – such as I-278, the Brooklyn Queens Expressway – applies in this particular instance. I wouldn’t assume that it is exempt, despite whatever self-serving statements are issued by the MTA. Presumably, despite their arguably worthy need for cash, we generally don’t allow public agencies to break the law. They can’t sell dope or operate prostitution or child pornography rings either.

  • resident

    What are you talking about? Have you ever driven an interstate outside of NY? There are billboards all over. If this law you discuss even exists, which a quick google search gives no indication that it does, the fact that it hasn’t been enforced for 30+ years means it’s effectively off the books.

  • carol


    The Highway Beautification Act of 1965 (HBA), enacted with the help of Lady Bird Johnson and signed by her husband, President Lyndon B. Johnson, did not abolish billboards, or even abolish all billboards along certain highways, such as the Interstate System. Rather, as amended over the years, it requires the Federal Highway Administration to ensure that the State transportation departments maintain “effective control of the erection and maintenance” of signs, displays, or devices, including outdoor advertising signs that are visible from the highway, beyond 660 feet of the Interstate right-of-way outside urban areas, and erected with the purpose of their message being read from the highway. Signs not subject to meeting those criteria are limited to directional and official signs; signs advertising products for sale on the property on which they are located; signs lawfully in existence before enactment of the HBA; and, those advertising the distribution by nonprofit organizations of free coffee to individuals traveling on the Interstates.

    The HBA also allows State and local officials to impose more stringent controls on billboards than those mandated by Federal law. The result varies from State to State and even from community to community, with some States essentially banning billboards while others allow them to the maximum extent permitted under the HBA.

    From the USDOT – Federal Highway Administration FAQs

  • Knight

    You don’t need to leave the State (or even the City). Look at I-495 as it heads into the Midtown Tunnel. The signage around that road rivals Times Square

  • BklynJace

    Rats. Damn legal billboard. But since we’ve got the mob together, with the promise of coffee and cake at Vineapple, surely there’s something else we can burn down.

  • BklynJace

    WAIT! Catching up with my reading — let’s burn down a nail salon! Really, who’d even notice if the count went down by one.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/13189502@N02/ Eddyenergizer

    There are virtually no billboards visible from interstate highways outside urban areas. Don’t confuse US and state highways which have no such national ban.

  • resident

    That is simply not true. They’re much more dense in urban areas, since there’s much more to advertise, and a lot more traffic. But before almost every exit is a string of gas station, hotel and fast food restaurant billboards.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/13189502@N02/ Eddyenergizer

    Sorry, If you are referring to the relatively small blue signs indicating “services at this exit” or “service area” that may have one or more small logos of the business at that exit/area, you are wrong. Those signs are not billboards.

  • resident

    I’m not, and you’re still wrong. You’ve never seen a “McDonalds – Exit 27″ sign? If you haven’t you’re not paying attention. I’ve taken many road trips in my life, and driven interstates near family, and billboards along interstates are standard in much of the country. For instance: http://usat.ly/jGRLbz along I-94 in Michigan.

    In fact, the highways I’ve been on that typically don’t have billboards are the turnpikes and parkways of various states, probably because the state has an interest in the success of the rest area businesses.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/13189502@N02/ Eddyenergizer

    I have driven tens of thousands of miles in over 40 states and twice coast to coast, so far. I think I have a pretty good picture of the Interstate Highway system.
    Look if you don’t believe me take a drive up I-87 (New York State Thruway) and tell me how many billboards you see after Yonkers?

  • resident

    And if you don’t believe me, drive I-94 between Detroit and Chicago, or most every other interstate in the country. I even cited a news article that clearly describes a billboard on said stretch of interstate. But you’re right, the thruway (which predates the interstate system and is run by a state authority) clearly indicates that ALL billboards on interstates are illegal. Here’s another example from the college football world (billboards don’t make news very often):