From the NY Times:
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is not above the law that bans billboards along highways in New York City, an independent panel has ruled in a decision that could cost the agency $1 million a year.
Ten advertising signs on the authority’s property in Queens and in the Bronx violate an ordinance prohibiting signs along major roadways, the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals said in a decision filed on Thursday.
The ruling affirmed the position of the Buildings Department, which enforces the billboard rules. City officials have argued that giant signs looming near roadways are hazardous because they could distract drivers.
The authority had appealed, arguing in part that the billboards were not only a source of additional revenue but also an aid to commuters.
The five-member panel disagreed, saying in its decision, “The assertion that the signs are for the benefit of passengers is very strained.” It added, “Many of the signs may not even be visible to train passengers” because they are designed to be seen by drivers and passengers on the roadways.
The panel, which considers requests for exemptions to the city’s zoning code, also rejected the authority’s argument that because it is a state agency, its property is exempt from local ordinances. For years, the Buildings Department had given the authority a pass, but it changed that stance several years ago after some advertising companies challenged the rules in court.