The Ad Blitzers' Facade

A city pol sheds her grace on a campaign backer. How unsightly.

Katz said she had started discussing possible legislation on the sidewalk sheds over a year ago. "There was no enforcement," she said. "It was getting out of hand." She said she was glad to see the buildings department finally take action earlier this year. "But that costs a lot of money. It ends up being almost a full-time job," she said. Since the advertising companies were throwing up their posters anyway, she suggested, "this could be a good source of revenue for the city." Her bill would curb the worst excesses by limiting the ads to commercial districts, she said.

Just how expensive is that enforcement? "That's a good question," she said. "How much did it cost specifically? I don't know. I do know it is a lot of resources."

So, no cost analysis. What revenues might the new permit fees yield? That calculation has yet to be made as well. "I don't have an expectation. I apologize," she said. "The onus is on the buildings department to find the best way to enforce it."

Queens Councilwoman Melinda Katz has introduced legislation that would make it legal to post advertising on outdoor sheds. It's against the law now although you'd never know it.
photo: Cary Conover
Queens Councilwoman Melinda Katz has introduced legislation that would make it legal to post advertising on outdoor sheds. It's against the law now although you'd never know it.

Katz also never got around to discussing the matter with the organizations that originally pressured the city to do something. Last year, the Municipal Arts Society documented violations and then demanded that the city end the illegal free ride the advertisers were getting.

Had she met with that group? "No, we didn't," said Katz. She added, agreeably: "We should. That's a good idea, actually."

Vanessa Gruen, the watchdog who spearheaded the society's efforts, said she was stunned when she heard about the new legislation.

"After a lot of pushing by ourselves and others, the city started cracking down," said Gruen. "Then—whammo—what does Melinda Katz do? She introduces this bill to the City Council to make them legal. These are public sidewalks. We're the ones who have to live with this. I think we ought to be consulted."

Katz said she's now eager for feedback. "I'm very curious to hear how the public feels about it," she said. Whatever she hears, it won't be any rougher than what the crowd at Shea Stadium doled out a week ago Sunday. An amateur singer, Katz sang "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch of the Mets' disastrous final game. The Mets were down 8-1 when she took the mic behind home plate. If she didn't exactly cheer up the house, no one thought she did any worse than pitcher Tom Glavine that day.

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