Metro – Floating billboards banned in New York waters

By Becca Glasser-Baker, August 20

On Tuesday New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation banning floating billboards in state waters.

In a statement, Cuomo said, “These floating billboards are a nuisance that blight our shores and distract from the great natural beauty of our waterways.” 

He added, “This action will help make our waters more enjoyable and safer for everyone.”

The bill, effective immediately, prohibits vessels from “operating, anchoring or mooring in the navigable waters of the state while operating a digital billboard or other type of billboard that uses flashing, intermittent or moving lights.” The bill also gives local officials the ability to ban vessels equipped with billboards from operating within 1,500 feet of their city’s shoreline. 

CBS reported that violators of this new legislation will be charged $1,000 for the first violation and $5,000 for any additional violations.

“Billboards belong in Times Square, not in the middle of the Hudson and East rivers. These floating billboards are a dangerous distraction to drivers, boaters and pedestrians, not to mention an eyesore,” Sen. Brad Hoylman, co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. 

Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried said, “Floating billboards are an unsightly public nuisance and public safety hazard. They can be distracting to boaters and mar the otherwise beautiful environment of our local waterways with unwanted advertisements.”

Earlier this year, Mayor de Blasio’s administration filed a lawsuit against the company well-known for the advertising, Ballyhoo Media. De Blasio claimed the floating billboards were a nuisance and also violated the city’s zoning laws. According to Gothamist, an injunction was issued against the outdoor media company, and restrictions placed compelling Ballyhoo to operate within 1,500 feet of the shore. Ballyhoo countersued, claiming NYC river ferries that display wrap ads on their vessels were not prohibited from doing so, and that only the state could issue a ban. Ballyhoo continued to navigate its floating billboards around Manhattan, admitting it was forced to circumvent the shoreline restriction for safety reasons. 

This is not the first time Ballyhoo has been involved with government officials over their barge billboards. According to Curbed, their legality was also questioned in 2016, in Miami. Ballyhoo Media debuted the floating billboards in New York in October 2018 — and said Tuesday they are intent on celebrating their one-year anniversary.

Responding to the prohibitive legislation in The New York Times, Adam Shapiro, CEO of Ballyhoo Media, said he is disappointed but unfazed by the governor’s decision, stating: “Our legal team believes these changes to the navigation law do not prohibit us from operating. Instead they offer clarity on what we can and cannot display with our platform. As such, Ballyhoo intends to continue providing an innovative platform that encourages creativity, collaboration, and community.”

In January, a spokesman for Pivot Media, the agency Ballyhoo works with to place the ads, confirmed to Digiday that Ballyhoo receives about $55,000 to run a 30-second spot in a 2-minute loop on the boats for four weeks.