A few weeks ago, I was walking home from Cinema Village on 12th Street after viewing The Lost Village—a film cataloguing how our old, familiar West Village is being shattered by inflation. The film featured interviews with female NYU students who are turning to prostitution to pay the breathtaking tuition and also Village restaurant owners who are hanging on by a thread until their next lease.
When I arrived at 6th Avenue, I viewed a conservative blue-tinted 20-inch by 14-inch poster announcing the monthly 6th Precinct Public Meeting at St. Anthony’s Church, neatly taped to the steel lamppost. It was accompanied by the usual pastiche of torn and dirty ads.
Whoa, a 6th Precinct poster taped to a lamppost! Hold on! Pasting ads or notices on lampposts must be illegal. However, the 6th Precinct Community Affairs Officer, Jim Alberici, said that it was not. In fact, it was a decision made by the 6th Precinct Community Council “and they even pay a guy to put them up.” He suggested that I check with Ben Benson, the expert on the subject who has devoted some of his retirement time to removing ad stickers.
Ben knows more about sticker/poster rules that any City official, so I offer his comments below to supplement my point.
(Date: May 19, 2017)
Dear Mr. Capsis:
If you read Sanitation Code Title 10-119 and Title 10-121, the anti-posting law exempts certain “official” government notices from the NYC Department of Sanitation (DSNY) anti-posting law. You will always see a ‘No Parking Saturday’ or a ‘Street Fair’ poster going up the week before a fair. Another example of an authorized posting is ‘CAUTION, Rat Poison,’ which for obvious reasons, I would never rip down.
The fact that government entities have DSNY-issued permits to post, though, does not make the streetscape any prettier, but that’s how the Sanitation ordinance is written. As for the 6th Precinct Community Council meetings, which I support, I have always, right or wrong, put them in the ‘NYPD/NYC Government’ category. I assume that you cannot rip them down until the event is over, which I frequently do. Whether or not these are authorized by the DSNY is debatable; I have not checked with the agency. Those who post ‘Street Fair’ and ‘Street Closure’ posters, in their defense, are pretty good at cleaning up after themselves, although not always thoroughly. In fact, today, in Chelsea, I removed a couple of ‘Street Fair’ posters for a street fair held two weeks ago!
Another posting category is the ‘Movie/Filming’ posters that go up for a commercial or movie on a particular block. Movie companies always obtain permits to post but sometimes do not clean up after themselves. Many times, I have ripped down such fliers two and three weeks after filming!
The DSNY prescribes fines for illegal postings—$75.00 per flier for the first offense—which increase for subsequent offenses. How often the DSNY actually metes out such fines I do not know. I do know, however, that the DSNY did issue fines to several political candidates whose operatives illegally draped their election placards around lampposts and traffic signs at election time. If I remember correctly, Bill Thompson was fined hundreds of thousands of dollars the last time he ran for mayor. The same applied to Michael Bloomberg. I do not know whether they actually paid. The political candidates, of course, NEVER return to clean up after themselves. One would think that someone running for office, and seeking our trust, would comply with the law. Well, many obviously don’t.
Interestingly, the DSNY’s fines for posting ILLEGAL posters, are the same for ripping down LEGAL posters. Hence, if you remove a ‘No Parking,’ ‘Street Fair,’ or ‘Rat Poison’ poster, you may receive the same fine as for an illegal poster. Sometimes you might see a tug-at-the-heartstrings ‘Lost Dog’ or ‘Missing Person’ flier. Technically, however, they are also illegal, and may be removed.
A note of caution: A couple of years ago, a ‘Lost Dog’ poster turned out to be an ad for a dog grooming service in Union Square! A ‘Missing Person’ poster turned out, at one time, to be a modeling agency seeking talent! So, everything is not always what it seems. In the last few months, I have noticed, in the East Village, a sign saying “Please do not remove this sign,” and nothing else. Maybe they are testing the waters. Naturally, I immediately took out my nail clipper, ripped several, and dumped them into the nearest trashcan. The next big test will come with the Jane Street Street Sale on June 2nd. They typically saturate the entire area with a blizzard of illegal lamppost fliers. I haven’t yet decided what to do about it, but past history has shown that they never clean up after the event.
(Date: May 20, 2017)
A point of clarification: I believe it is important to distinguish between GRAFFITI, which is an NYPD issue and ILLEGAL POSTINGS, which are a DSNY issue. Graffiti and illegal posters often appear on the same surfaces, such as lampposts, traffic signal boxes, newspaper dispensers, mail boxes, etc. Graffiti, however, to the best of my knowledge, falls within a separate jurisdiction. I mention this since, in your initial email, you said that the “6th Precinct Board exempts [itself] from graffiti laws.” The 6th Precinct Community Council does not scrawl graffiti anywhere, whereas it does post announcements in the form of fliers on lampposts. According to my lay interpretation of the anti-posting laws, the 6th Precinct Community Council fliers most likely fall into the ‘NYPD/NYC Government’ category.