The Real Deal New York

Federal act endangers giant Times Square billboards

Seventh Ave. and Broadway at Times Square are part of National Highway System

May 04, 2015 09:00AM

Times Square

Times Square

An unexpected side effect of a 2012 federal transportation bill is threatening Times Square’s giant, flashy billboards.

Some of New York City’s roads — including Broadway and Seventh Avenue where they intersect at Times Square  — were added to the National Highway System in 2012, making them subject to the 1965 Highway Beautification Act, Crain’s reported. As a part of that act, billboards cannot exceed 1,200 square feet.

The city’s Department of Transportation is now facing federal pressure to remove billboards that exceed that size or pay a fine, according to the website. Billboards are a source of income for the area and can sometimes rake in more revenue than office leases.

“In the last federal transportation bill, MAP-21, they did kind of a funny thing, which I think was well-intentioned. They basically made a bunch of major roadways throughout all of America part of the National Highway System,” said Department of Transportation commissioner Polly Trottenberg recently, as cited by the website. “That has included a number of the major streets throughout New York City, including ones that run through Times Square.”

Added the commissioner, “all these billboards, they no longer meet the Highway Beautification Act requirements, and so now we’re going to have to go through kind of a complicated process with the state to yank them off because the feds are threatening to take away 10 percent of our money.”

The Department of Transportation, however, is planning to keep the iconic billboards where they are. The agency is talking to the state’s Department of Transportation and the city’s Department of Buildings. [Capital New York] — Claire Moses