Heeding the desperate pleas of waterfront-loving New Yorkers, Mayor Bill de Blasio is finally making good on his threat to take legal action against the "Times Square-style" billboard floating through local rivers.
On Wednesday, the Mayor's Office announced that the city had filed a lawsuit against Ballyhoo Media, the company behind the sixty-foot ad-barges, for repeatedly violating a decades-old zoning resolution that prohibits advertising on local waterways. Describing the massive LED screens a "public nuisance," the complaint seeks an injunction against Ballyhoo that would force it to cease operations in local rivers.
"Our waterways aren’t Times Square," de Blasio said in a statement. "These floating eye-sores have no place on them. Ballyhoo is operating in direct violation of the law, and we are filing this suit to put a stop to it."
The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court on Wednesday, seeks a $25,000 penalty for each day that the company violates the law. Seeing as the boat has been making daily voyages around Manhattan's lower half since October, the potential fine could be upwards of $3.6 million. It remains unclear why the city has elected to bring the matter to court, rather than instructing NYPD patrol boats to impose the fine themselves—as they are authorized to do in other instances of illegal waterfront activity.
Still, news of the lawsuit was celebrated by local residents, some of whom had spent months frustrated by the city's apparent lack of enforcement. "It's heartening to see the ‘process’ work like we’ve been taught it should work — from grassroots complaints, to excellent investigative journalism, to, finally, political and legal action," said Matthew Patrick Menlo, a West Chelsea resident who says he frequently wakes up to the aggressively bright boats outside his apartment.
The company responsible for the boats, meanwhile, has disputed the categorization of their product as either illegal or obnoxious. In a statement, CEO Adam Shapiro claimed he'd worked with several legal experts, who told assured him the company was "operating in accordance with all current laws and zoning resolutions."
"We love the waterways and have developed this platform to be an asset to the community," Shapiro added. "Ballyhoo has proven to provide unique, one-of-a-kind experiences that has been received with overwhelmingly positive community support. We are confident that New York City will see the value and excitement we bring to the waterfront.”
The suit comes just two days after a bill was introduced in City Council raising the daily fine on the boats to $100,000.
“If these guys won’t stop breaking the law by flaunting these obnoxious floating billboards in our harbor, they deserve to be sued and I applaud the Mayor for taking action," said Councilmember Justin Branna, who co-sponsored the legislation. "These monstrosities are ugly and illegal and soon they will be a thing of the past."