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Your Ad Here: Filling the Void with Display Window Advertising

July 29, 2019

As anyone traveling around New York City can quickly observe, there are an increasing number of vacant street-level retail spaces. These locations that once were home to apparel companies, sporting goods franchises, banks and restaurants are frequently empty for long periods of time as property owners and managers market these spaces in search of new long-term tenants. These vacant spaces, however, present an opportunity that enterprising media companies are poised to exploit – turning these spaces into a platform for the display of dynamic advertising signage.

New York City's Zoning Resolution and Administrative Code impose strict limits on where advertising signage may be displayed. Indeed, in all residence districts and most commercial districts, new advertising signage is prohibited. The City allows advertising signage in manufacturing districts and some commercial districts, subject to, among other things, limits on surface area, height and illumination. As one might expect, many prime retail locations are found in commercial districts that prohibit the display of advertising signage. There is, however, an opportunity for advertising signage to be displayed behind window glass in those districts where it would otherwise be prohibited, provided that the signage is not illuminated.

The definition of "sign" found in Section 12-10 of the Zoning Resolution, while focusing on an exterior display that is "a structure or any part thereof, or is attached to, painted on, or in any other manner represented on a building or other structure" and "is used to announce, direct attention to or advertise" notes that: "[a] sign shall include writing, representation or other figures of similar character within a building, only when illuminated and located in a window." The definition specifically excludes non-illuminated signs located in a window.

As a result, out-of-home advertising companies (OACs) are exploring opportunities to partner with property owners and managers by bringing vacant retail spaces to life with non-illuminated advertising signage. These displays provide a revenue stream to landlords waiting on the next long-term tenant while allowing OACs to market the opportunity to their advertising clients to establish a presence in neighborhoods where traditional outdoor advertising signage would otherwise be prohibited. OACs and property owners must, of course, proceed with care, including in materials used and display design, to ensure that the signage is displayed so that it falls outside of the "sign" definition. Indeed, if New York City were to conclude that a window advertising display was an advertising sign installed without a permit in a zoning district where advertising signs are prohibited, the Department of Buildings may commence code enforcement proceedings seeking penalties against both the property owner and OAC of $10,000 each for every initial violation of the Zoning Resolution and Administrative Code alleged.

Display window advertising signage may also be installed where the property is zoned in a district where advertising signage is permitted, subject to the traditional permit and zoning process. We represent the leading OACs operating in New York City and are available to counsel property owners and managers looking to fill their retail void.

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Kilduff, Patrick J. Partner and Chair of Compliance and Administrative Law Practice and Outdoor Advertising Practice Partner and Chair of Compliance and Administrative Law Practice and Outdoor Advertising Practice 212.216.8019 VCard

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