In New York City the law is clear: No advertising on the sidewalk. In Section 19-138 of New York’s Administrative Code, the law states that it is “unlawful for any person to deface any street by painting, printing or writing thereon, or attaching thereto, in any manner, any advertisement or other printed matter.”
In a city where every other flat surface and otherwise visible space is fair game for selling anything and everything under the sun, the sidewalks on which we wander are sacred. Need a break from the bombardment of rampant consumerism? Just look down and disappear into the privacy of your thoughts. Section 19-138 gives New Yorkers a well-deserved rest from “the attack of the money grabbers.”
However, some have tried, but with little success, to flaunt the law. This week Sony Corporation placed four-foot wide stickers on the sidewalk outside their corporate headquarters on Madison Avenue between 55th and 56th Streets. The brightly colored decals proclaimed optimistically to onlookers “The Era of You” presumably meaning that since it’s the “Era of You” then YOU certainly deserve some really fun electronic toy, especially from Sony.
City Takes Action
The city quickly stepped in on Thursday and ordered Sony, through a ‘cease-and-desist’ letter, to remove the decals, according to a spokesman for the Transportation Department, Monty Dean, thus putting a quick end to the ‘Era of You.’
Other attempts to take the streets for ads have been thwarted similarly. Back in 2002 Microsoft swarmed the streets in Midtown with plastic decals of butterflies on every surface imaginable, including lampposts, stop signs, curbs, subway entrances and on the sacred sidewalks. The city promptly ordered them to be removed and included a $50 symbolic fine for their trouble.
Chase Bank once tried to project its logo onto sidewalks after nightfall, but got into trouble for that attempt at ‘light-advertising.’
Offenders Promptly Comply
Mr. Dean said that in the past year the city has only issued less than ten reprimands for sidewalk ads, and in every instance the guilty party removed them promptly.
The director of the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management at NYU, Mitchell L. Moss, gave kudos to the work the Transportation Department has done protecting the sidewalks by enforcing the law.
“There are constant efforts to find new ways to promote people and products in New York City – we’ve gone way beyond billboards” he said. “But the sidewalks are intrinsic public space, and there are very few parts of our city that really are still sacred. If every firm did this, the sidewalks would be complete chaos. The one thing we don’t need is a sidewalk war.”
Expressing his real “You’ Jack Kaplan a financial analyst in Midtown took a look at the sidewalk outside Sony and said, “We’re inundated with ads every five minutes” he said. “It’s too much. Enough already.”