As the names of those lost on September 11th, 2001 were read at the 9/11 Memorial this morning, you might have been compelled to turn towards the Hudson River and gaze at the Statue of Liberty, to use the expanse of the river and its steady current to contemplate the preciousness of life. Helpfully, a 20-foot wide, 60-foot LED billboard that usually projects images of Heineken and the Grinch and that Broadway play Wicked, was there to aid your meditation with a simple refrain: "NEVER FORGET."
“There really are no words for their use of an advertising billboard on this solemn day," tipster C. Dimmick, who sent the photo to Gothamist, wrote in an email. "9/11 is not a holiday. It is not an advertisement. It is a day of remembrance of loved ones lost by the hands of terrorists. Anyone who witnessed it will never forget. We witnessed something so horrific it can never be erased from our memories."
Dimmick added, "The billboard imagery was insensitive, crass and a futile attempt to gain the approval of New Yorkers for their illegal use of our waters for their own personal gain."
Governor Andrew Cuomo called the billboards a "nuisance that blight our shores and distract from the great natural beauty of our waterways" when he signed a law banning them from operating last month. The company that operates the billboard boats, Ballyhoo Media, has said that they will not stop running them. CEO Adam Shapiro argues that the state law only applies to floating billboards that use “flashing or intermittent lights,” and that Ballyhoo only has to adhere to federal standards for roadway signs, which allow digital billboards to change every four to ten seconds.
The NYPD recently told Gothamist that they are still figuring out how to enforce the state law, which carries penalties of $1,000 for a first violation, and $5,000 for subsequent offenses.
A lawsuit filed by the City against Ballyhoo is still pending, and the company has countersued, while a judge has ordered them maintain a distance of 1,500 feet of the city shoreline or within sight of any "arterial highway" like the FDR or West Side Highway. (Ballyhoo has acknowledged that they'd been forced to breach the boundary in order "to maintain safe navigation procedures.") Court records show that the two sides are preparing for a bench trial, and a status conference is scheduled for February 20, 2020.
Shapiro and a rep for the company have not responded to our request for comment.