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UES Illegal Store Signs Need DOB Crackdown, Local Assemblyman Says

By Amy Zimmer | April 24, 2012 10:40am
A P.C. Richard sign on East 86th Street that residents have long complained about.
A P.C. Richard sign on East 86th Street that residents have long complained about.
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DNAinfo/Amy Zimmer
UPPER EAST SIDE  — The proliferation of illegal store signs is creating an eyesore on the Upper East Side, according to a local politician, who is calling on the Department of Buildings to step up enforcement.
State Assemblyman Dan Quart has teamed up with the Carnegie Hill Neighbors Association to record alleged infractions and forward pictures of offending buildings to the Department of Buildings.
An ad spanning a Brookstone facade, banners attached to a Best Buy and Staples, and a sign advertising foot reflexology on a stairwell railing are among more than a dozen illegal store signs between East 86th and 92nd streets, from Lexington and Park avenues, Quart and neighbors said.

"I would ask that you immediately schedule your inspectors to conduct an inspection of this area, with specific attention paid to the signs depicted in the photographs," Quart wrote on April 17 to DOB's Manhattan Borough Commissioner Derek Lee.

Quart said his office went on a walkabout with the Carnegie Hill Neighbors after receiving numerous phone calls and emails regarding signage in the area.

He blamed weak enforcement of sign regulations for allowing businesses to compete with each other for shoppers' attention with increasingly large and eye-grabbing signs that are marring the area's character.

"It's important to balance the needs of small businesses to advertise their services with local residents’ desire to preserve the character of their neighborhood," Quart said. "The Department of Buildings is responsible for maintaining this balance when it comes to signage and I expect that Commissioner Lee will improve his department’s enforcement of these regulations."

Neighborhood groups like the East 86th Street Association have long complained about the problem of illegal signage in Yorkville. But that group hasn't had an easy time challenging illegal signs. It took nearly a decade of complaints before a Duane Reade sign on East 86th Street was taken down.

"Without political will and the mayor providing resources to ensure that DOB will enforce the law, little with be done," said Elaine Walsh, of the East 86th Street Association.

"Illegal signs are all over the Upper East Side. We keep telling them about the same signs and nothing gets done," she said. "When government doesn't respond, the sense in the community is that the government doesn't care."

But, she added, "We're glad that another civic group has taken up the issue."

Walsh said her organization teamed up with Carnegie Hill Neighbors to create a brochure to help people identify illegal signage. 

The DOB has been aware of the Upper East Side's illegal sign problem.

Steven Figueiredo, DOB's deputy director of intergovernmental affairs, told residents at a Community Board 8 meeting in February that after some internal issues were worked out, the agency would be on top of the situation.

"I think we're reaching a plan on how to move forward," he said. "As we did with the Duane Reade sign, we're going to start auditing the applicants we have on file [for signs]."

There are hundreds of different types of permits and applications to comb through for these businesses, which sometimes makes it challenging to spot offenders, Figueiredo said.

"I understand you don't want it to become a Times Square," he said.