A Question for the Department of Buildings
Like many Brooklynites, I did not grow up here. The reason Greenpoint appeals to me is it bears no resemblance whatsoever to the cookie cutter suburbs I once called home. Dallas, Los Angeles or San Antonio, the zip codes may have been different but everything else was pretty much the same. Be they houses, neighborhood associations or even the people. Except for one.
This house was located on the southeastern fringe of our sub-division. Its owners had an aesthetic not shared by their neighbors. If I had to liken the color scheme of this house to anything, I’d call it Whataburger Chic. Their approach to landscape design was equally unorthodox; the flower beds were lined with empty beer bottles and old tires from sixteen wheelers were employed as planters. This property was quite a sight. One I got to behold often; my father made it a point to drive by it each and every time the opportunity presented itself. Nary a trip to the gas station, mall or grocery store was made without beholding this poly-chromatic spectacle.
Some people like to drive through certain neighborhoods at Christmas time to savor the ornate, if tacky, tableaux the residents have erected to glorify the birth of our lord. My father, on the other hand, drove by this house so he would have the opportunity to repeatedly use his name in vain. My father hated this house and he wanted to make sure both my mother and I knew it. We did, in the most base, profane and explicit terms.
This persisted for a month or two until my mother decided she had had enough. One day she offered to drive to the grocery store and my father agreed to it. She’s very clever that way, my mother. She fired up the car and proceeded along a different route. My father was immediately alarmed and asked why she was not taking “Elk Grove”. She said she didn’t want to. He pushed the matter, she pushed back, and in so doing, made it very clear that she was tired of his ranting ad nauseum about “that house“. My dad never drove by it again.
I mention this story because in many ways I am like my father. One significant difference, however, is I make a concerted effort to avoid rage-inducing eyesores. However, when one is reliant on mass transit things can become problematic. Which brings me to this.
I featured this dubious piece of advertising back in June. As I was riding the bus yesterday I noticed it was still there. I made sure to point this out to my husband.
Can you fucking believe this shit? That sign has got to be fucking illegal. The Department of Buildings is cracking down on this kind of thing, you know. Why hasn’t it been taken down? I AM SICK AND FUCKING TIRED OF LOOKING AT THIS PIECE OF SHIT! I HAVE TO LOOK AT THAT UGLY MOTHERFUCKER EVERY TIME I RIDE THE GODDAMN BUS!!!
It was like a flashback to my father— except I had a captive audience of 40 bus patrons. Although no one said anything, I think it is safe to speculate that at least one or two of them probably hate this sign as much as I do. Maybe even more.
On July 25th of this year the Department of Buildings issued a press release announcing their crackdown on illegal advertising. Here’s an excerpt from their tome.
Buildings Commissioner Patricia J. Lancaster, FAIA, today announced the launch of phase two of the Department’s enforcement campaign against illegal advertising. Expanding upon a crackdown on illegal advertising on sidewalk sheds, this second phase targets illegal advertising signs on building walls, which are generally large in size and mounted by anchors to the exterior wall of a building.
This sign is indeed “large in size”, but it is not mounted using anchors. Whoever is responsible for this masterpiece decided to drill right into the building instead.
This press release goes on to say:
…New York is certainly known for its busy landscape, but not every one of the City’s 950,000 buildings can be used as advertising space. Some zoning districts allow advertising signs on building walls while others do not…
I do not profess to know what the zoning regulations are in Greenpoint. I will profess, however, that this is the only sign of its type (READ: strapped to the front of a building, obstructing windows) that I have seen here. Period. My inner “Nancy Drew” finds this suspect— if for no other reason because if this practice was legal I would probably be seeing a lot more of it. It has been my observation that any means of turning a fast buck at the expense of and/or discomfort to the residents in this neighborhood is rarely left unexploited.
Perhaps this practice is legal? If it is, it shouldn’t be. I am not so simple-minded as to use this eyesore to simply vilify Belvedere Realty. The real villain here are the enablers, be they our fairly (s)elected officials, building and/or zoning regulations and the people who are charged with enforcing them.
P.S.: If anyone from the D.O.B. is reading this, the above photographs were taken today, August 12, 2007. The sign in question is located at 609 Manhattan Avenue. Click here for directions.