It should surprise exactly no one that at least some of the good residents of New York are not all that thrilled that a barge with big-ass LED screens on it is working as a floating billboard on the Hudson River.
This Gothamist post lays out the public upset and civic position on Ballyhoo Media, which started operations off Manhattan this fall. The company already had an ad barge bobbing along the shoreline of Miami Beach.
So far, the city has been slow to respond to the novel advertising strategy, despite the fact that the company would appear to be in blatant violation of local zoning rules—”no moving or stationary advertising sign shall be displayed on a vessel plying waterways adjacent to Commercial Districts and within view from an arterial highway.” Under state navigation law, jurisdiction of vessels operating within 1,500 feet of the shoreline would fall to the local legislative body.
Asked about the LED barges in early November, a spokesperson for the Department of City Planning told Gothamist that they are “working with other relevant agencies to determine how to best address this practice.” We’ve followed up several times since then, but the agency has refused to say whether there are plans to take action against the company. The Mayor’s Office did not respond to our inquiries, while a spokesperson for City Council Speaker Corey Johnson declined to comment.
“It doesn’t add up that you can have a zoning resolution that says no billboards in New York waters, and no New York City agency is going to respond,” the attorney leading the online Ballyhoo opposition, who requested anonymity, told Gothamist. “How can you let one of the few natural spaces we have left be turned into a new Times Square?”
The company owner, interviewed for the piece, essentially shrugged his shoulders and said he didn’t expect everyone to like the concept.
The Gothamist reporter had found my earlier reporting on the barge and contacted me. I told him it was just a derivative of all kinds of invasive advertising, like planes pulling fabric banners and trucks on the Vegas strip with LED screens on the sides, marketing peeler clubs and escort agencies.
I also said New York probably ain’t seen nothing yet. Consider the highrise towers on the Jersey shoreline facing Manhattan, and particularly those rising in Brooklyn and Queens. It is no stretch, at all, to imagine many of those buildings getting LED strips, curtains or other tech that will turn them into bright art pieces and/or billboards at night – easily viewed from Manhattan.
Look at what goes on in downtown Shenzhen, and that’s not the only big Chinese city doing this sort of thing. Hong Kong has had a version for years, though the age of much of it shows.
The world is an ad, like it or not.