Scaffold spam

Like most computer users I hate spam. But I've gradually gotten used to it. You can get used to anything, I was once told, even a stone in your shoe. Apparently I've gotten used to more than I thought. In a terrific piece in New York Press, Lindsay Beyerstein (aka Majikthise) calls our attention to scaffold spam in New York, the illegal use for advertising of the fabric sheathes on the construction scaffolding over building facades.

Vinyl construction wraps loom over sidewalks all over the city--from the towering blue Infiniti ad wrapped around a vacant lot in Soho to the new Equinox Fitness wrap on the Flatiron Building. As soon as a construction site wall goes up, it gets plastered with brightly colored posters for records, movies, concerts and gadgets, usually as part of a corporate sniping campaign known in the trade as "wild posting."

These ads are so brazen and so ubiquitous that most would find it hard to believe that most of them are, in fact, totally illegal. Construction site ads run afoul of the New York City law stating that, "there shall be no information, pictorial representations or any business or advertising messages posted on such protective structures at demolition or construction sites." In laymen's terms, that means that if you see an ad on a construction site, be it a poster or a full-scale sidewalk shed wrap, it's almost certainly illegal. The only exception is for businesses whose regular signs are obscured by construction; they are allowed small wooden or metal sign directly in front of their outlets. (Lindsay Beyerstein, New York Press)

More cognitive noise. And complete, blatant disregard for the law. Apparently some people have to obey the law and others, well, they just don't. I'm sure this is news to you.

You should read Lindsay's piece in its entirety if you care about the urban environment. I'm not sure where else this goes on but I'm guessing everywhere. The part of this fascinating piece that naturally attracted my attention was the public health part. This isn't necessarily a victimless crime:

Construction advertising is the Wild-West of the media world. Some unscrupulous actors in this unregulated market are making life miserable--and even dangerous--for New Yorkers. Glaring safety violations are becoming commonplace in this unregulated market.

Recently, on Madison Avenue at 42nd Street, someone decided that a shed ad for Enviga energy drinks was more important than the traffic light behind it. When citizens complained, someone cut a keyhole for the sign. The public wasn't satisfied, so someone enlarged the hole. Finally, the entire ad came down amid public outcry.

On October 26, a sidewalk shed laden with an oversized Helio sign collapsed on Lafayette St. near the corner of Prince.

Often these oversized parapets are a safety hazard because they catch the wind like giant sails, making the entire structure more likely to collapse. The DOB hasn't banned oversized parapets yet, but tougher regulations may be on the horizon.

"It's not a formal policy decision," said Givner, "but the department has been examining those sheds with large parapet walls. In high wind, they pose a higher safety risk. Our job is to ensure public safety on the construction site. We're looking to see what size is appropriate."

Apparently some new city laws will make it easier to prosecute building owners who allow this advertising on their buildings. We'll have to see whether they are enforced. Of course our society has more serious problems than a little visual blight that might fall on you and kill you.

Like grandmothers and sub-teens downloading tunes.

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Where are the anti-graffiti crusaders now that the graffiti is corporate?

By epistemology (not verified) on 30 Nov 2006 #permalink

"Apparently some people have to obey the law and others, well, they just don't. I'm sure this is news to you."

It's not news. There is a precedent. Politicians and lawyers (e.g. see wikipedia on "marcus einfeld") dont have to obey the law.

bar: I should have put a "sarcasm" tag on that sentence.

"Like grandmothers and sub-teens downloading tunes."

Which, of course, is illegal. The discussion of which laws are reasonable is not the same one as which laws should be obeyed.

Edmund: You mean to say, "Of course that is illegal too" I assume. Of course that was my point. But whether downloading is illegal or not will be tested in court now that the SOBs have picked on the wrong person (see my earlier post on this). If I download a song for which I have bought and paid for the license but have it on vinyl and want it now digitally for my iPod, we'll have to see if that is illegal. And of course a lot of the subteens and grandmas they sue deny they ever downloaded anything. Some don't even have computers. They just don't have the resources to fight it in court. They are being made an example of and many apparently aren't even "guilty."

I don't download songs. I pay for them via iTunes. But the RIAA and MPAA are grasping and selfish bastards who cheat their own artists but then cry foul. They have also framed the IP laws in their favor by buying CongressThings (like Dem. Howard Berman).

Revere, I essentially agree with your opinion here. But I think that the actions of the RIAA, MPAA--however unreasonable, unfair, inefficient they might be--may be considered separate (for the purpose of making my point) from the actions of people willingly and knowingly breaking copyright laws. My remark was intended to compare blatant law-breaking-is-okay-because-everyone-is-doing-it attitudes. So yes, "too" would have been appropriate.