By B. Benson
The offensive practice of postings stickers and flyers on any public street furniture, lamp posts, traffic signal boxes, payphones, newspaper dispensers, etc. in New York City is very much illegal and with good reason. Such stickers and flyers create a visually jarring eyesore.
The Department of Sanitation’s Code of Digest specifically prohibits the practice in Title 10-119. Many papers have condemned it: The New York Times, for example, has written; “…it exacts a toll from neighbourhoods. Not just in monetary values but also in the quality of life for the people that live there.” And it “…makes a neighborhood appear lawless.” The New York Post similarly wrote: “the area just does not look presentable…chaotic and unkempt…soiled street scape” and points out that “signs are barred from all public property.” This also includes banners and placards draped around lamp posts and traffic signs at election time by our political candidates. One might expect that someone running for office would start out by complying with the law. This is obviously not the case.
In 2003 New York City approved ‘Mayor’s Intro 146-A’ which amended the existing anti-posting law, increased the fines, and also established an awards program for providing information leading to criminal conviction of a person for unlawful posting. It is not known to what extent such rewards have been paid out.
According to media reports, recent and severe offenders were several mayoral candidates including John Liu and Bill Thompson, who were hit with hefty fines by the Department Of Sanitation. It is not known if they ever paid up. Each posting is subject to a $75.00 fine for first offense, increasing for subsequent offenses.
Our previous Sanitation Commissioner, John Doherty asked for the community’s help in 2010, writing: “Please help us remove all illegal postings. They create an unsightly mess.” The Department of Sanitation bureaucracy has what it calls an “Anti-Posting Unit,” but as with many City agencies it is understaffed and has to cover all five boroughs, which is why DOS relies on the public to help it remove such fliers. One of the more ubiquitous ones are “MOVING $19 per Man per Hour” which can be found across the entire City, in all five boroughs.
A few times a month Villagers wake to a blizzard of MOVING fliers stuck to virtually every lamp post. Typically these arrive in the overnight hours when the DOS Enforcement Unit is not working. As indicated above, New York City is encouraging you to rip them down. You can of course also call it in to 311 and wait 3-4 weeks for the Department of Sanitation to remove them.
For obvious reasons there are some posted flyers which cannot be removed, for example those put up by City agencies such as NYPD “No parking Saturday Street Fair” or The Department of Health’s “Rat Poison.” It should also be noted that our Community Boards in fact have a posting permit allowing them to post notices about public hearings. Such notices can only be removed after the posted event has occurred. Similarly most movie production companies have posting permits announcing street closures in connection with film production.
While one sometimes feel like being considerate, not everything is what it seems to be. A “Lost Dog” posting two years ago was in fact an ad for a dog grooming service. A “Missing Person” upon close reading was a modeling agency looking for talent. Clearly the persons responsible for these knew exactly what they were doing. But even Lost Dog and Missing Person are technically illegal, and of course unsightly. Visually stickers and flyers are the same as graffiti gang tags, many of which are territorial markers.
Illegal postings have been a problem in the City for a few decades, increasing now that everyone seems to possess a computer and printer.
Several City officials have tried to escalate this issue including Martin Golden in Brooklyn and Gale Brewer in Manhattan, but in the end it falls on the public to rip them down. The City simply has no time, interest in, or funds to enforce its own ordinance.