By Peter Sorkin
The City Council Land Use Committee heard arguments against what one Queens community board district manager called “visual noise” at a hearing on billboards at City Hall Tuesday morning.
At issue at a meeting of the Council's Land Use Committee at City hall was the proliferation of billboards and outdoor advertising in western Queens along stretches of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and the Long Island Expressway.
The Council is considering changes to “Intro 809,” which regulates billboards and other forms of outdoor advertising, changes proposed by the city Planning Commission. The commission calls for limiting the quantity of outdoor advertising and the size of the billboards. The City Council is to vote in February on whether to amend the administrative code of the city, said Jake Lynn, a City Council spokesman.
“You've got to recognize the fact that we are the people you are advertising to,” said Community Board 9 District Manager Sylvia Hack. “This is nothing but visual noise. They have to be regulated within limits.”
Community Board 2 Chairman Joseph Conley said he worried that if the Council does not vote to regulate the billboards, the advertising may lower property values in his neighborhood. CB 2 covers Woodside, Sunnyside and parts of Long Island City.
“We feel we have a lot more to offer than these architectural structures,” Conley said. “The sightline has been lost. How many buildings are being taken off the market?”
For months CB 2 has discussed the matter and at a board meeting in November, many residents were clearly upset and accused the city planning committee of turning a blind eye.
At the board meeting, Catheryn Keeshan, co-president of the United 40 Civic Association in Woodside, said her neighborhood had been inundated with billboards.
“They have been putting up billboard after billboard after billboard,” Keeshan said. “They go up five at a time and now there are a great deal more. They're putting them up literally overnight.”
Opposition to the proposed regulations came from lawyers representing sheet metal workers who said that roughly 1,100 jobs are at stake.
One worker who asked not to be identified said he had trained for five years and would be out of a job if the Council voted to amend the bill.
“They're going to put us out of work,” he said. “We put them up under the old law and now they want us to stop. What are we going to do now?”
Timothy Stauning, president of New York Outdoor Group, an association of outdoor advertising companies, said the regulations would devastate his industry.
“It is no exaggeration to say that City Planning's proposals could result in the loss of many well-paying jobs, annual income losses in the millions of dollars, and investment losses that might well run into the hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said. “The proposals put forth by the City Planning Commission are frankly unreasonable, unworkable, and unfair.”