Capital New York:
The Second Circuit Court of Appeals will allow a constitutional challenge to city zoning laws that regulate what kinds of signs can be displayed in a person's window.
The order on Friday stems from a federal suit filed by Brigitte Vosse, a fashion designer who owns a condominium in the Ansonia, an apartment building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
Vosse constructed an illuminated peace sign to hang from her 17th floor living room window in December 2010. In court filings, she claimed that the sign was part of her opposition to war and American military policy abroad and that the regulations violated her First Amendment rights.
In September 2011, Vosse was fined $800 and forced to remove the peace sign by the city’s Environmental Control Board, which found that it violated a zoning regulation banning signs at heights of more than 40 feet. The E.C.B. refused to rule on the constitutionality of the law.
Vosse then sued the city in federal court, arguing that the zoning policy “disparately preferred some groups of displayers to others,” since flags, banners, and pennants are allowed at the same height, according to Zoning Resolution Section 32-62.
The case against the city was dismissed in November 2013 by federal district court judge Jed Rakoff, who ruled that Vosse had no legal standing to sue. However, Rakoff did not rule on the constitutionality of the underlying zoning regulation.
Friday’s appellate court ruling upholds Rakoff’s dismissal of the case, but a three-judge panel ruled that the lower court must review whether the zoning laws are in violation of the First Amendment.