HELP - NYC Billboard Legality

I am considering purchasing a building with a billboard, where the billboard comprised over 1/3 of the rent. The billboard is located in Queens, New York City.

I am trying to determine the legality of the billboard. I have been told by an architect the legality depends on two things - permits on the both the face and structure and the sign off of both. I have determined that the structure has a permit which has been signed off in 1944. I cannot find the permits or sign off for the permits for the face of the structure.

Also, the billboard has an open violation - “Having installed a sign with framework, brackets and sign structure without obtaining a permit”

It’s confusing as I’m told the billboard is grandfathered. Any help would be greatly appreciated! Alternatively, if anyone could recommend an architect or zoning lawyer in NYC that would also be helpful!

Thanks in advance!

You definitely need to call in a lawyer on this issue. Grandfathering is confusing for even the smartest city official, and there is too much money at stake here to depend on the judgement of an employee of the city or state.

To be grandfathered, in most cases, the sign will need a legal initial permit from the city and/or state. Without an initial permit, the sign is illegal. However, in some areas – such as Los Angeles – the city has seemingly grandfathered even illegal signs because of the difficulty of trying to litigate to get them removed.

Anything less than a professional lawyer is a bad idea on this particular deal.

I recently got a call from a building owner that said he had a billboard that was grandfathered. The billboard was on the Gowanus Expwy. I went to the building department for him to try to get some answers and was told that if the permits expired then the billboard is not grandfathered. A new permit would need to be applied for and would be effected by all of the present codes. There were a couple of lawsuits against the city in the early 2000’s about illegally constructed billboards by the big firms and they lost. depending on where the billboard is and if you can get the permits they can generate significant income.

If you were able to get the permits please let me know. Call Bill at 631-666-0156

Look around the city, see all those signs with no advertising on them? They are all in code enforcement. Same thing happened in Chicago. After they eliminate the competition they will do land leases with JC Decoux / Interstate and build their own billboard plant. You can’t make this stuff up. I would strongly suggest that with out current State DOT authorizations and NYC billboard (not on-premise) permits that you don’t count on that income.