Built by the General Outdoor Advertising Company in 1940, the Pepsi-Cola sign has squatters rights in the hearts and minds of New Yorkers and has been a celebrated protected landmark in the last few years.
But PepsiCo, which still owns the sign, and JetBlue may have struck a deal in poor taste by adding airline logos to the iconic piece of Americana standing above the East River looking toward Manhattan.
On Wednesday, workers were still busy mounting JetBlue signage on the Pepsi-Cola sign as people going about their morning routine did double-takes along the waterline.
And while many took to Twitter to air their grievances, the airline and the beverage company issued a joint statement calling the new temporary imagery a “sign of enjoyment for all.”
“We know that people love the Pepsi-Cola sign in Long Island City, which also happens to be JetBlue’s home. It’s a living monument of both the Pepsi brand, and New York City. That’s exactly why we believe it is the perfect symbol to celebrate our partnership,” the joint statement said. “This is a temporary installation and the sign will be returned to its original state on October 1. PepsiCo worked closely with Landmarks Preservation Commission, Queens West Development Corporation and Landmark Signs to make sure the integrity of the sign is carefully preserved throughout this initiative.”
PepsiCo said that since Long Island City was also home to JetBlue, who will also be serving their beverages in the sky, the new look was befitting the partnership.
The companies claimed the signage will capture the attention of photography enthusiasts from many vantage points throughout the city.
While temporary JetBlue logo is only temporary, the companies see it being completed by Aug. 22 at which time onlookers can start tagging #PepsiOnJetBlue, according to a release.
The sign was designated a landmark by the Landmark Preservation Commission (LPC) in 2016 after a 30-year fight and a unanimous vote in City Council. Representative of a different era in Long Island City in which large illuminated signs dominated the landscape on the eastern side of the river, many were eager to protect the sign’s legacy.
Since its installation, zoning changes have made it one of the few boisterous advertisements left from the 1040s.
The Pepsi plant closed in 1999, and TF Cornerstone took over much of land. Now the sign is sandwiched between Gantry Plaza State Park and luxury living high-rise towers.
Even though it’s temporary it’s unsettling as the door has been opened. Not happy. No one wants this. (Pic via Twitter) pic.twitter.com/16w4zofqjv
— Eric (@Eric11714) August 21, 2019
A spokeswoman from the LPC said it was in the agency’s right to authorize the agreement between PepsiCo and JetBlue as long as it did not affect any protected features, but allowed the advert on the basis of an escrow agreement to ensure limited nature of the arrangement.
“Pursuant to its rules, LPC can approve temporary signs on landmark properties for up to 180 days where such an installation will have no effect on the historic features of the landmark,” the spokeswoman said. “On Aug. 14, LPC issued a permit to PepsiCo for the temporary installation of illuminated JetBlue signage on the Pepsi Cola Sign to be removed on or before Oct. 1, 2019.”
The LPC additionally said only staff approval was necessary for this kind of authorization with no public involvement necessary. This action was no different than 97 percent of applications regarding landmarks, an LPC spokeswoman said.
The agreement obtained from by QNS cited Section 25-306 of the Administrative Code in its authorization to allow the airline to hitch four logos to the structure holding up the Pepsi-Cola sign for no more than 180 days.
I saw this yesterday when it was at the "tBlue" stage. I'm relieved to hear that it is temporary but why do it at all? From a design/typography perspective, it's dreadful. Will a series of promos be allowed because they are temporary? Leave it alone!
— Katzen Jammer (@JammerKatzen) August 21, 2019
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.