To paraphrase the 1948 film, and later, television series of the same name, The Naked City, there are eight million stories in the naked city. And probably ten times that many signs. They are everywhere, all asking for our attention. There are billboards and banners, blinking neon letters and twinkling LEDs. Go to Times Square and there's probably at least one example of every kind of sign ever devised. It wouldn't be surprising to find a few tablets cut in stone, or parchment scrolls tucked away in some corner, advertising psychic readings or after-theater dinners. In short, signs are all around us.
Like any other tall structure, co-op and condo buildings are attractive sites for advertising signage. Ground floor retail shops showcase their names on brightly-lit signs. Doctors, lawyers and other professionals whose offices are housed in co-op and condo buildings also hang their shingles outside. Some buildings, although not nearly as many as in the past, will rent roof space or that rare exterior wall space for larger-scale advertising purposes to earn a few extra dollars for the annual budget.
Attractive as the prospect of "free money" from advertisers might seem, the question of whether to allow signage on your building requires special attention from both board and management. It's never just about sending a worker up a ladder with four nails and a glossy new banner. There are zoning questions. City code questions. There are insurance considerations and contracts to iron out. There's size and scale and questions of architectural taste and image. It's a process into which no building should jump unprepared.
Sign of the Times
When it comes to co-ops and condos, most building signs are put up by commercial tenants on the lower floors. For most residents, finding the perfect balance between a sign that gets the message across and a sign that's just too big or ostentatious can be a delicate act.
"A co-op is a home for hundreds of people," says attorney Andrew Brucker of the law firm of Schechter & Brucker PC in Manhattan. "They want it to be nice. They don't want big signs all over the building." Which is why the days of renting building space for advertisements may be dwindling. "Just renting out space like that takes away from the building," Brucker says. "It takes away from its status. And buildings want to be high-class, no matter where they are."