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Cuomo signs bill banning floating billboards in navigable waters

A boat carrying an advertising board sails past

A boat carrying an advertising board sails past the Statue of Liberty at sunset on Nov. 1, 2018, in New York City. Credit: Getty Images / Gary Hershorn

New York has sunk floating digital billboards.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed a bill Tuesday that outlaws boats, barges and other vessels from carrying billboards that feature flashing or moving lights in any navigable water in the state. The State Legislature had passed the ban following New York City’s attempt in March to block boat ads.

“These floating billboards are a nuisance that blight our shores and distract from the great natural beauty of our waterways,” the governor said in a statement.

“Billboards belong in Times Square, not in the middle of the Hudson and East rivers,” Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), sponsor of the bill, added. “These floating billboards are a dangerous distraction to drivers, boaters and pedestrians, not to mention an eyesore.”

The head of one floating sign company said he’s disappointed by Cuomo’s action, but said he will continue to use billboards that he believes are still permissible.

“Our legal team believes the changes to the navigation law does not prohibit us from operating in state waters. Instead, it has only offered more clarity on what we can and cannot display with our new platform,” Adam Shapiro, CEO of Ballyhoo Media, said. “As such, Ballyhoo intends to continue providing an innovative platform that encourages creativity, collaboration and community.”

The new law also gives localities the ability to ban advertising vessels from anchoring, mooring or operating within 1,500 feet of the shore. Localities could opt to allow them as well.

New York City had sued Ballyhoo earlier this year and received an injunction blocking company vessels from venturing within 1,500 feet of the shore. Ballyhoo vessels have been cruising the Hudson and East rivers around Manhattan.

Floating billboards have become a controversial issue in other cities — especially Miami, where recent headlines say they’ve “turned Miami waterfront into Times Square.”

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