Give Me a Sign Revenue through exterior advertising

The side of your residential building is a windowless plane of painted brick that stands ten stories higher than the adjacent co-op, clearly visible from the well-trafficked Queensboro Bridge. The side of the building has deteriorated a bit in the last few years and will need repairing-at considerable expense-sometime within the next year. There are already grumblings among the tenants, many of whom would rather not pay for such labor now, with a recession looming. The situation is setting up to be a major headache for you, the board president.

Enter Advil(tm). The company's outdoor advertising agency submits a proposal to your board to not only pay for the repair of the side of the building, but to bring in thousands of dollars a month in additional revenue. All you have to do is let them construct-on that huge side of the building with the unobstructed view of the Queensboro Bridge-an enormous print ad for Advil(tm). The proposal is submitted to the rest of the owners, who now have to decide between paying a substantial assessment for the repairs to your building exterior, or turning your beloved residence into an advertisement.

Is It Even Legal?

Before you even consider erecting a massive sign on your building, you need to do some research to find out a few important things. Your board's first legal hurdle is the zoning of your neighborhood. Residential districts prohibit such signs, says Elliott Meisel, a partner with Manhattan law firm Brill & Meisel. Other areas zoned for commercial and manufacturing usually allow signs.

If you live in a historically significant building such as a landmark, you have still more to consider. Most of the time, according to Meisel, such buildings are not allowed to construct signs at all. An exception is in SoHo, a landmarked district, where commercial signs are consistent with a district that historically permitted such advertisements. "If there wasn't previously a sign on the wall in a landmarked area," Meisel says, "it is highly unlikely they would permit one now." Permits for signs in landmarked buildings or areas have to get approval from the New York City Landmarks Preservation.

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