By Leslie Albrecht
UPPER WEST SIDE — Upper West Siders are demanding the removal of a 24-hour video billboard atop a new Duane Reade at West 72nd Street and Broadway, saying the flashing sign threatens to turn their neighborhood into a mini Times Square.
"We don't have signs like that in this neighborhood," said Jeannie Williams, who lives in the nearby Verdi apartment building. "It is hideous."
West 74th and Broadway resident Gretchen Berger described the JumboTron-style display, which beams ads for Duane Reade from the store's second-floor window, as "scratching your eyes."
"It's a perfect structure and a perfect sign for Times Square, but it’s certainly not in keeping with the feel of this quiet, artistic neighborhood," said Lauri Grossman, who lives in the Alexandria, across West 72nd Street from the new Duane Reade.
Residents are circulating a petition calling for the sign's removal.
City Councilwoman Gale Brewer and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal say they've fielded dozens of complaints, some from neighbors whose sleep has been disrupted by the glowing screen. They've both asked the Department of Buildings to investigate whether the video screen is legal.
Rosenthal said in a statement that her office searched documents filed by Duane Reade and found a permit application for an "ordinary display," but no permit for a larger, brightly lit sign.
The Department of Buildings said Wednesday the matter was still under investigation.
A spokesman for Duane Reade said the company takes such complaints seriously.
"With more than 250 neighborhood locations, Duane Reade has always worked well with the local community," a spokesman said in an e-mailed statement. "This is something we will review immediately, and will respond accordingly to our fellow West Siders."
Williams and Grossman said the electronic sign reverses years of work they've put in upgrading their once-sketchy neighborhood.
They say the sign, which is on the second floor of a sleek new rental building called The Corner, destroys the sophisticated atmosphere they've tried to create in their neighborhood.
Williams said her building is proud to have first-floor tenants like upscale chocolatier Jacques Torres and restaurant Gina La Fornarina.
"We’ve worked very hard to get these attractive small businesses in, and then this big-box store comes in," Williams said. "This is just not the kind of image we want for our neighborhood."
Grossman said the sign spoils recent improvements to Verdi Square, a tiny park next to the 72nd Street subway. Once a haven for drug dealers and addicts, neighbors have worked to revive the park. Now it hosts the Verdi Square Festival of the Arts, an annual free concert series.
"We’re trying to bring back the feel that this is a neighborhood that supports artists," Grossman said. "This is not Times Square, and that JumboTron screams Times Square."