The Battle of the Barge rages on, despite legal threats from the city and the increasing aggravation of many New Yorkers.
After we reported earlier this month on the big floating LED billboard that recently appeared off the coast of Manhattan, city officials sent a letter to Ballyhoo Media, the Miami-based company behind the barges, threatening legal action if they didn't abandon ship. Ballyhoo was given until January 16th to show their compliance with a law prohibiting advertising in local waterways—literally the company's business model—and subsequently granted a one week extension, according to the law department.
But that deadline has now passed, and Ballyhoo's aggressively bright, 60-foot ad-boat is still making daily voyages around lower Manhattan, blaring high-definition ads for a range products, including beer, private helicopter rides, and television shows about mermaids.
"I’m still seeing the billboard boats running along the Hudson every day—I literally wake up to them outside my apartment window," Matthew Patrick Menlo, a West Chelsea resident, told Gothamist on Friday. "Is Ballyhoo operating in direct defiance of the letter, or did the company come to some arrangement with the city that hasn’t yet been made public?"
A spokesperson for the city law department, Nicholas Paolucci, would say only that "lawyers are in discussions." Adam Shapiro, the CEO of Ballyhoo Media, did not respond to Gothamist's inquiries.
It's not the first time that the company has found itself in questionable legal waters. After Ballyhoo's first floating billboard began targeting Miami beachgoers two years ago, local officials pledged to ban the company, but found that the relevant city law pertained only to Biscayne Bay.
The same does not appear to be true of New York City. In the letter sent to Ballyhoo earlier this month, NYC's Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter noted that several provisions of the NYC Administrative Code prohibit advertising in waterways adjacent to a residential, commercial, or manufacturing district and within view of an arterial highway—including the West Side Highway and FDR Drive. The boat's current route begins near the Intrepid, traveling around the southern tip of Manhattan before finishing at Roosevelt Island.
Elected officials have also expressed concerns about safety, noting the company could set a dangerous precedent if they're allowed to continue operating. Councilmember Justin Brannan, who represents Bay Ridge, told Gothamist that the barge was "not only ugly, obnoxious and illegal, but dangerous to already distracted drivers." He added that "visual pollution is a real thing and our waterways should be off limits," noting that the law is "pretty clear."
And if there was any doubt about the importance of standing up to invasive marketing companies intent on plastering every inch of public space with aggressive advertising, well, here is this:
This company wants to display billboards from outer space 🛰 pic.twitter.com/FMp3CGRWuT
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) January 17, 2019
We'll be keeping an eye on this fight in the coming weeks. If you spot one of these billboards, shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.