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City Councilmembers Propose $100,000 Fine For 'Hideous' LED Billboard Boats

The LED billboard boat that arrived in NYC in October
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The LED billboard boat that arrived in NYC in October via Facebook

The allegedly illegal, unquestionably irritating LED billboard seen floating through NYC's waterways in recent months could soon incur a much steeper fine from the city — assuming, that is, authorities ever get around to enforcing the law the advertising company is believed to be violating.

The controversial barge was first spotted in the city's rivers in October, and has since attracted plenty of scorn from New Yorkers partial to a waterfront view that does not include an aggressively bright, 60-foot screen blaring ads for beer and private helicopter rides. After the Mayor's Office deemed it "hideous" earlier this year, the Law Department sent a letter to the company behind the boat, Ballyhoo Media, giving them a two-week deadline to demonstrate compliance with a local zoning resolution that prohibits advertising on local waterways

But more than two months later, the ad-boat is still making frequent voyages around Manhattan, and it's unclear whether any official enforcement action has been taken.

Frustrated by the city's inaction, some local lawmakers will introduce a bill this week that would increase the fine for companies caught advertising in the city's waterways to $100,000, up from the current penalty of $25,000 per daily violation. According to the bill's co-sponsors, Councilmember Mark Levine and Councilmember Justin Brannan, the legislation is aimed squarely at Ballyhoo, which is reportedly charging brands $55,000 for four weeks of a looped 30-second spot on the boat.

"We want to increase fines to the point that it's no longer economical for them to keep flouting the law, to just pay the fine and continue to clutter our landscape," Levine, an Upper West Side representative, told Gothamist. He added that every colleague he's spoken to about the issue is "outraged," and called on the NYPD to step up enforcement of the boat (a police spokesperson did not immediately return Gothamist's inquiries).

Councilmember Brannan, who represents Bay Ridge, has also voiced safety concerns about the disruptive advertising strategy, telling Gothamist earlier this year that the barge was "not only ugly, obnoxious and illegal, but dangerous to already distracted drivers."

Still, it remains to be seen whether the hefty threat will actually amount to much, as it does not appear that a single fine has been levied on the company since it arrived in New York City six months ago. While neither the Law Department nor Ballyhoo Media responded to Gothamist's questions by press time, Ballyhoo CEO Adam Shapiro told the Miami Herald last week that the dispute with New York City had been resolved, and that he was "running unimpeded in New York."

Shapiro went on to estimate that his barge is seen daily by at least half a million New Yorkers, who would be "lucky to see it more than once per day."

Are you a New Yorker who's been lucky enough to spot this as-yet-unsinkable monstrosity? Drop us a line at tips@gothamist.com

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