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Property Outlaws: How Squaters, Pirates and Protestors Improve the Law of Ownership

I just finished reading Property Outlaws by Eduardo Moises Penalver and Sonia Katyal. It is by far the most interesting book I have read in relation to the PublicAdCampaign project and unauthorized productions in public space. Although not directly about actions of this nature, the book begins to tease out the some of the reasons I think street artists, graffiti writers, and unauthorized public producers create their works, and do so without regard for the legal consequences. Very early on the authors state that "There is a difference between talking about something and being confronted with an actual example of it." And isnt that what most of us as artists are doing after all, creating an actual example of the streets we desire through our actions instead of talking about how wonderful they would be if only we were allowed to use them as we see fit. It is with this thought in mind that we take to the streets and confront a public space controlled by commercial messages, ready to condemn the behavior of public citizens, with alternatives that better suit the public's needs.

In particular, the book is an incredible resource for anyone walking treacherous legal lines in order to speak out on some larger issue. It is also a wonderfully counterintuitive look at how the law might require disobedience in some cases in order to better serve our changing cultural landscape. The authors argue that property outlaws are a resource to our legal system as they challenge our notions of right and wrong in ways that are exemplary and confrontational, providing us with an experience of alternative realities we might not otherwise be privy to. The book gives credence to something we have thought for a long time, and that is in order to facilitate change, often it is the responsibility of the public to create the world they think should exist instead of merely protesting the way things are.

Property Outlaws does focus on much larger transgressions than my personal work, the NYSAT projects, or street art for that matter, and I in no way draw comparisons between these projects and civil rights activists, or the drug patent violators that the book highlights. It does however contextualize the project in a long line of civil disobedience that the authors refer to as expressive outlaw behavior. That said I was excited to note that some of the same legal strategies might be applied to PublicAdCampaign's extralegal activities in order to justify our participants unique take on facilitating changes in the way public space is used. A small example of this being that we have at PublicAdCampaign implored the city on occasion to deal with certain illegal advertising problems, in particular NPA's egregious wide spread abuse of our public environment. These requests fell on deaf ears, and the NYSAT projects although partly meant to empower the individual to create change, were essentially our last option to call attention to this issue. In a situation like this where regular avenues have failed, Property Outlaws discusses legal strategies which may be used effectively, one example being, "The necessity defense [which] has been applied in state courts to immunize acts of criminal trespass, blocking traffic, defacing tobacco billboards, and supplying clean needles to drug users."

Anyways, I only got a tenth of what I should have out of this book and plan on reading it again immediately. If you would like a taste from the Huffington Post, you can read it [HERE]

NPA contracts-Evidence of Extralegal Behavior

Over the years I have gained access to a few NPA City Outdoor contracts. I haven't posted them mainly because I thought it might just piss off NPA and not be of much interest to others. Recently I changed my mind due to the particularly fast removal of a project I just took part in, as well as a book I am reading which has strengthened my resolve. I will post on this book next week as I would like to finish it before giving my small review.

With the NYSAT Micro Site we have provided every scrap of evidence needed for the NYC Sign Enforcement Unit to go after NPA tooth and nail. The fact that the city has failed to challenge the company as an entity and still goes after individual signs is frustrating to say the least. It is incredibly hard to understand why the city wouldn't at least go after a minimum $10,000.00 fine at each of their 500 locations, resulting in 5 million in city revenue. Either way, I know the department is incredibly under staffed and is doing a difficult job, I just don't see why it isn't done smarter.

The first 4 contracts are between NPA City Outdoor and private landlords for the operation of illegal Wildposting on NYC construction sheds. These ads are across the board illegal because NYC does not allow this type of signage period. This fact is clearly state on the DOB website, yet here we are looking at contractual agreements for this type of signage as recently as 2009. Part of the reason this type of outdoor advertising is illegal is that it inevitably ends up in shambles blighting our city more than the advertising itself.

The first thing I would like to point out is the termination agreement which states, "Lessor or Lessee can terminate this agreement at any time after 30 days written notice. However Lessor cannot terminate this agreement for the purpose of replacing NPA's product with that of another advertising company." Really?

The second thing I will point out is the content restriction clause which states, "Lessee shall not permit any advertisement which contains lewd, lascivious, or pornographic content." I could care less about what some consider "lewd" material but I find it funny I have been staring at a bare breast for the past few weeks while the Diesel campaign has been up and running.



And finally this last contract is between Go Poster (Purchased by NPA) and East Village Farms at 98 Avenue A. This location is where 2 people were arrested during the first NYSAT project and has recently been removed by a landlord facing 250,000.00 in fines due to the illegal advertising. The landlord at this location speaks very little english and is having a hard time dealing with this violation. Meanwhile NPA, who also received $250,000.00 in fines has put their lawyer Robert Hochman on the case and will probably walk away from this little indiscretion unscathed. Upset yet? Compounding this situation is the fact that the landlord at 98 avenue A did not even sign this contract, and had no knowledge of the illegality of the signage. In fact it was a night employee who put their John Hancock on this "contract." If you were erecting a sign on my property would you ask a tenant to sign the contract? All of this is made more absurd by the fact that Contest Promotions Inc was in the process of applying for an accessory business sign permit at this location without the landlord or deli owners knowledge just prior to them removing it. Long story short, NPA and CPI are the same company. Operating illegal advertising signage is punishable with a fine of up to $25,000. If each location that now holds illegal NPA advertising had an accessory bussines sign permit for those structures, they could claim that they were merely "improperly" using these signs. The fine associated with improper use of a business sign is on par with a parking ticket.


New Tactics, Same Result. Streetscapes Overwhelm

This is what West Broadway and Grand Street looked like the last time the Google car photographed this neighborhood. Since then it has undergone construction and has recently become a prime retail location. Apparently it hasn't been rented yet and instead is being used for this giant Streetscape advertisement. The interesting thing about this location is that the vinyl sticker ads are inside the windows. It has been added to our Streetscape map.

This makes me angry

This makes me wish I had a big fat marker with me to cover this up in something other than this insidious shit. And i don’t really ever have the impulse to tag.

Canal and Broadway. All you Chisel-tippers and KRINKers go after it.

eriffs

“Renegade Sign Bandits” Call Attention to Fuel Outdoor’s Illegal Billboards

Ban Billboard Blight reports that "renegade sign bandits" have hit the streets of LA plastering Fuel Outdoors' illegal signage with violation notices from the city of LA. It should be noted that New York is also a victim of Fuel Outdoor and it's illegal advertising signage. According to BBB, "A spokesperson for the L.A. Department of Building and Safety confirmed that the city had nothing to do the notices." Clearly this is a public reaction to LA's unwillingness to follow through with sign removal after a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision not to hear Metrolights' appeal put the final nail in the coffin that is their legal battle to legitimize their illegal signage business. More [HERE]

Get Your Dollar From InWindow!

It may seem like we spend hours browsing outdoor advertising sites, but we don't, they send us emails with this kind of information all the time. InWindow, the company who envisions their business for potential customers with this doosey...
"Picture a giant billboard several stories overhead. Now imagine bringing it down to street level where it is literally face to face with huge crowds of potential customers."
has a new website. They are so excited about it and their new I-phone app, that they are offering you a dollar just for downloading the app. Of course this is for a limited time, which they don't specify, but I suggest you get your dollar.
For a limited time only, we'll pay you $1 when you download the app from the App Store or iTunes. Just send the email confirmation from Apple to info@inwindowoutdoor.com and we'll send you $1 via PayPal. Easy as that!
Enjoy!

Graffiti, Billboards, and Reclaiming Public Space Appropriated by Illegal Advertising

The most recent post written by Dennis on Ban Billboard blight asks what the difference is between illegal advertising and graffiti, or what I would refer to as scrawl since I know many extremely talented graffiti artists. After citing LA Municipal code's definition of graffiti he comes to the conclusion that they are indeed very similar despite one being a serious crime punishable by serious jail time, while the other often seems to be quietly tolerated by most cities in our country.

I would add that there is another huge difference which I think is often overlooked and which makes graffiti the lesser crime, or at least the one done out of neccessity or survival, while advertising is done for pure profit. Many sociological looks at graffiti practitioners, including several wonderful books by Jeff Ferrell, make the point that graffiti is an outlet of expression for many youth which find themselves unable to assert their identity in our society. Constantly bombarded by corporate iconography and invisible in a cities of millions flying from one place to the next, tagging your surroundings becomes a way to integrate yourself into the city's fabric. Tagging may not be the best way to do so but we have to admit that there might be a social failure at work here, instead of seeing it as an aggressive act of destruction at the hands of deranged youth, that so often describes graffiti practice.

In fact here at PublicAdCampaign we have come to believe that actively altering your public space has enormous psychological benefits for those participating in the act. The act of altering your public space creates a link between the person who made the alteration and the space in which that alteration was made. This bond engenders a sense of responsibility for that space. Someone who feels responsibility for parts of the city will protect that space because in fact that space is now a representation of yourself.

Graffiti may not be the best or most appreciated way for individuals to create psychic connections with their public environment but we think it is just that. If we accept this fact then we might do better spending our tax dollars on programs which allow youth to create meaningful bonds with their city environment instead of hunting them down and throwing them in jail. If we do this we might even find our city beautified by public mural projects, community gardens, neighborhood festivities and a more lively public space that pleases the senses instead of insulting our intelligence.


VIA Ban Billboard Blight

What is the difference between those who spray paint gang slogans and other kinds of graffiti on public walls and companies that put up illegal billboards and supergraphic signs? What is the difference, fundamentally, between graffiti and illegal outdoor advertising? Both make a claim on public space, saying “Look at this!” without observing any laws or considering that citizens might deserve a voice in what they’re forced to see when they drive, walk, or otherwise experience their urban environment.[MORE]

New Mediacy Gatescapes Hit The Streets 01-19-10

Rendering courtesy of Mediacy Inc.

A while back we were sent Mediacy's press release for their new advertising venture called Gatescapes. These eyesores, we assumed would be illegal like the Streetscape advertisements pushed by InWindow, Blue Outdoor, and others. Mr. Gitter, Mediacy's CEO, contacted us after we made this clear on our site and this began a series of conversations. Mainly we talked about our differing opinions on how this would alter the NYC landscape. We argued that 15 foot tall ads for The Real Housewives of wherever would be intrusions into our community that would treat residents as "impressions" to be used for commercial interests, they argued that these vinyl ads would counteract graffiti and enliven our city streets. Along with this, conversations on how art could benefit from this new media venture were had. It was proposed by Mr. Gitter that we become a part of this process of curating these artworks. I was worried that artists would be used to legitimate what might be an illegal advertising business and that the offering of space to artists was not an altruistic act by the company but a ploy to deflect attention from the potentially illegal advertising business. I explained that my involvement would require that at least 51% of the gates owned by the company be used for art because this was the only way I could see the advertising serving the art and not the other way around. Obviously this did not fly and Mediacy and PublicAdCampaign are no longer in talks. According to their website, 25% of the Gatescape spaces will be used for artwork and will be curated by Julia Lazarus.

Mediacy has gone ahead with their business in NYC, and we were happy to see them officially registering as an Outdoor Advertising Company on January 14th, 2010. This registration is necessary for a business to offer outdoor advertising services in New York and is the first step in bringing advertising to the streets legally. I am still unsure if Mediacy is trying to do this knowing we will be watching, or because it is the right thing to do, but either way we commend them for it. In fact they make specific mention of their legal aspirations on their website in their explanation of the great opportunity that are Gatescapes.
That's right-- it's so good that's it available for a limited time only. NYC has passed a law banning solid metal roll-down storefront gates. That means there's only 16 more years to advertise on one of the largest format, most visible, legally permitted outdoor media available anywhere! Don't miss your chance. Call Mediacy Outdoor while there's still time!
January 19th, Mediacy launched its first non commercial Gatescape at 323 west 42nd street with an installation for Michael J. Fox's Parkinson's research fund. Checking into the DOB website, there is no permit for outdoor advertising signage at 323 west 42nd street. This isn't a problem with the current content as the DOB does not issue violations for non-commercial signs but if this sign were to change to an ad for Coca-Cola it would be an entirely different story.

Rendering courtesy of Mediacy Inc.

As of now we are anxiously awaiting Julia Lazarus's contribution to our city in the form of curated artwork on the plethora of rolldown gates in our city. We are also interested to see Mediacy's commercial content hit the streets and whether or not there will be permitting along with these signs. Despite our disapproval for this type of signage in general, going about advertising legally in our city allows the DOB to make sure that this signage will not get out of hand and will remain in properly zoned areas. We ask our readers to keep their eyes on the streets for these new Gatescapes in an effort to hold Mediacy true to their word on keeping things legal.

Rendering courtesy of Mediacy Inc.

Gender Bending Hotties Invade Chelsea at 300 West 22nd Street

Just when I thought Streetscapes had been abandoned by outdoor advertisers in NYC, or at least in Chelsea, a new one shows up right in the hood. Now I like Rupaul just the same as the next guy but I don't want to indulge her, and her gender bending buddies, first thing in the morning at 15 feet tall. Having grown up in Chelsea I can enjoy a beautiful man like the next, but let's keep it legal people.

One would assume this immense illegal Streetscape advertisement had its initial complaint # 1274075 called in by the same person who posted the above sign. It reads...
This is illegal corporate graffiti

This is an Environmental Control Board (ECB) Violation.

The Department of Buildings has been contacted, please remove this abomination IMMEDIATELY, this is not Times Square.

Building owners who lease ads on their premises are considered outdoor advertising companies. As such, they can be fined a maximum of 25,000 dollars

Call 311 to add your complaint

status number is 1274075
I obviously called this "abomination" in as well given that the recent equinox billboard removal in Greenwich Village came after huge public outcry made it a newsworthy issue. When I went to check complaint # 1274098 that I made at 9:00am this morning there was already a 3rd complaint filed by another party.

I find it interesting that this concerned New Yorker complains "this is not Times Square". Many New Yorkers you talk to have no problem with the theme park being run in midtown. In fact many New Yorkers rarely pass through that part of town unless out of necessity. As is evidenced in this public response, this does not mean New Yorkers want to live in Times Square. Although New York, and particularly Manhattan, feels less like somewhere we live and more like somewhere the world visits, this is simply not the case. Our neighborhoods and communities are just that. Using them as sites of commercial interruption, especially when done illegally, harms the people that live in this city and the sense of control over their environment that is needed to feel invested in ones community. Streetscapes like this and the others we have kept track of are particularly insulting because of their scale and placement which is meant to overwhelm the viewer.

I also find it interesting that this resident makes the comparison between advertising and traditional graffiti. When outdoor advertising is illegal, you can often find this comment being made. I am inclined to disagree slightly because it would seem graffiti artists often become incredibly productive parts of our society working in design, the arts, and ironically advertising, as well as many other fields. People who hang advertising and particularly illegal postings like this, continue a long and drawn out career of violating our streets in new and more insidious ways. This says nothing about the fact that graffiti or marking ones environment as a way to find ones identity in a city of 8 million people, might actually be a important avenue of expression for our youth.

I have added this location to our Streetscape map where you can find more illegal ads posted by companies like InWindow and Blue Outdoor. We will report back when this Streetscape is removed.

InWindow Mallways, A Better Business Model


A while back InWindow was destroying the streets of New York with Streetscape advertisements. After critiquing their operation for illegally installing these giant street level billboards, their CEO contacted PublicAdCampaign looking to explain why they weren't so bad. We invited Steve Lambert of the Anti-Advertising Agency to come with us and hear them out at the old NYC staple, Fanelli's Cafe. Long story short Steve Birnhak (CEO) and Ray Lee (real estate operations manager) told us they were doing the city a service by covering empty storefronts with their illegal advertisements. The giant ads were supposedly staving off blight and the inevitable neighborhood degeneration associated with it as businesses went belly up in the economic crisis. Obviously this was a matter of opinion and one both Steve Lambert and I disagreed with. It was our opinion that the ads were in fact altering our shared environment for the worse by taking advantage of bad times and the public in general. We were asked to stop finding fault with their business, we responded by asking them to stop illegally using our streets and pursue their other legal outdoor advertising concepts. It seems in New York at least the large Streetscapes have all but disappeared. It also seems InWindow has heeded our advice and put its efforts into Mallways, a legal derivative of their illegal Streetscape operation, and one you can ignore by not entering the church of consumption we call The Mall. If you do see Streetscapes in your neighborhood, please send us a picture with the exact address.