Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Advertising on Sidewalk Sheds Haunts the City Again

VIA Municipal Art Society

The New York City Council will hold a public hearing next Monday, January 26, at 1:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers at City Hall on Intro. 623 which proposes to allow advertising on sidewalk construction sheds for a yet to be determined permit fee. The Municipal Art Society will testify against this ill-conceived plan. [Read MAS press release here.]

Outdoor advertising and sidewalk construction sheds blight our city’s streetscape. The City wisely seeks to regulate outdoor advertising with strict zoning regulations and imposes design guidelines for sidewalk construction sheds, but the City Council now wants to combine these two eyesores with a permit that would allow outdoor advertising companies to advertise on sidewalk sheds in manufacturing and commercial zoning districts. Read coverage of this issue in Metro NY, January 27, 2009.

Sidewalk sheds are mandated by law and are intended solely for safety purposes during construction. They are unattractive and interfere with pedestrian traffic, but public safety is a priority no one can argue with. Allowing advertising on them, however, merely serves to provide an incentive for a building owner to leave a shed up and extend the advertiser’s presence onto public property — the sidewalk.

We know from experience that sidewalk sheds have been left up for years, even when no work is being done on a building. This has a serious deleterious effect on the pedestrian experience — by creating congested dark spaces on some of our most important avenues. The sheds also interfere with the business of street level retailers and destroy mature trees that cannot survive when these sheds surround their trunks (some trees are just cut down to make room for the sheds).

The permitted advertisement will by no means be discreet or subtle. The Council bill would allow the sidewalk sheds to be as much as eight feet tall (conveniently the length of a sheet of plywood) and the advertisement could run the full length of the shed, which on some construction sites can be a block long with the shed wrapping around the corners of the building.

Our campaign against illegal advertising has been very popular with New yorkers because it is so closely related to the issues of livability and the preservation of the city’s unique streetscapes. It would be a true shame if the City Council is allowed to legalize advertising signage that the public clearly does not want.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Friday, October 17, 2008

Ad or Art? Chanel’s 2.55 vs. Zoning’s C5-3

Via The New York TimesDavid W. Dunlap

Illegal Chanel sign

The Buildings Department says Chanel’s billboard on East 57th Street is illegal. (Photo: David W. Dunlap/The New York Times)

Vinyl billboard blankets have been draped over all kinds of buildings, but they’re not usually found obscuring the glittering luxury outlets along East 57th Street.

Chanel, however, has done that very thing: hanging a big piece of vinyl over its building at No. 15, promoting Mobile Art, an exhibition by the architect Zaha Hadid that opens in a temporary pavilion in Central Park next Monday. The show was described by my colleague Carol Vogel as a “provocative advertisement” in and of itself.

“Chanel, the fashion brand, commissioned Ms. Hadid to create the traveling structure to house works by about 15 hot contemporary artists,” Ms. Vogel wrote on July 24. “Each was asked to create a work that was at least in part inspired by Chanel’s classic 2.55 quilted-style chain handbag, so named because it was first issued in February 1955.”

So this billboard is, in effect, an advertisement for an advertisement. And it is illegal, the Buildings Department said, after City Room brought the sign to the agency’s attention.

Although the department was focused Thursday on an international conference about crane safety, Kate Lindquist, a spokeswoman, said it was issuing two summonses, returnable before the Environmental Control Board, for installing an advertising sign without a permit and for obstructing windows. Each violation carries a maximum penalty of $15,000, she said.

Telephone and e-mail requests for comment from Chanel over the last two days have gone unanswered.

The Chanel building is in a C5-3 zoning district, where the only signs permitted are those that are “accessory” to activities taking place on the same lot. In other words, Chanel can have a sign for its own store. But even allowable signs may not exceed 200 square feet in a C5-3 district, and the Mobile Art billboard would seem to be at least 2,000 square feet. Signs may not be higher than 25 feet above the curb, and again, the Mobile Art billboard fails the test.

Vanessa Gruen of the Municipal Art Society, which has fought billboards for more than a century, said that the content was irrelevant in this case. “Even if it’s for a theoretically good cause,” she said, “that doesn’t mean you’re allowed to advertise on buildings.”

Labels: , , , , , , , ,


    Eduardo Moises Penalver & Sonia Kaytal
    Property Outlaws: How Squatters, Pirates, and Protesters Improve the Law of Ownership

    Barbara Ehrenreich
    Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy

    Lewis Hyde
    The Gift, Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World

    Geoffrey Miller
    Spent: Sex, Evolution, & Consumer Behavior

    Sharon Zukin
    The Cultures of Cities

    Miriam Greenberg
    Branding New York

    Naomi Klein
    No Logo

    Kalle Lasn
    Culture Jam

    Stuart Ewen
    Captains of Consciousness

    Stuart Ewen
    All Consuming Images

    Stuart & Elizabeth Ewen
    Channels of Desire

    Jeff Ferrell
    Crimes of Style

    Jeff Ferrell
    Tearing Down the Streets

    John Berger
    Ways of Seeing

    Joe Austin
    Taking the Train

    Rosalyn Deutsche
    Evictions art + spatial politics

    Jane Jacobs
    Death+Life of American Cities