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May 31st, 2007

THE BILLBOARD WARS

by Joelle Panisch

img_0366.jpgThe Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation and friends were in prime form recently as they gathered outside the Gansevoort Hotel to protest the erection of two giant billboards above the Hudson street section of the hotel’s property.

“Shame on you!” they chanted to the measure of whistles and drums that blew in the background. “Hey! Ho! The billboards must go!”

GVSHP leader Andrew Berman riled the crowd and handed out flyers to the seemingly unaffected scenesters that sauntered by. The protest was planned to coincide with a Christina Aguilera and Nylon magazine event that took place inside.

According to the GVSHP press release, Hotel Gansevoort owner Michael Achenbaum has refused to take down the 8 story billboards, despite a slew of meetings. It’s indicated that the rental of these billboards could bring in a cool million per year. A representative for Hotel Gansevoort said they have no comment on the matter.

Along with the Society, other objectors include local residents, area businesses, community leaders, and political figures. Some local restaurants are even taking part in a boycott – that is, not accepting reservations from the hotel. These restaurants include Restaurant Florent, Lotus, the Spotted Pig, theWaverly Inn, Spice Market, the Inn at LittleWest 12th, Cafe Cluny, 5 Ninth, Morandi, Balthazar, and Pastis.

The GVSHP has long been fighting illegal billboards in the area and reported these specific signs to the Department of Buildings in January. Along with letters to the Gansevoort Hotel, the Society has also contacted VanWagner Communications (the company responsible for erecting the signs) and Commissioner of the Department of Buildings Patricia Lancaster. So far, the legality of these billboards is still under review.

In a letter to Mr. Achenbaum, Andrew Berman writes, “We all – residents and businesses like the Hotel alike – benefit from the uniquely appealing and distinctive character of our neighborhood. Making it over to look like a stop along an interstate freeway will ultimately be a tremendous disservice to you, your neighbors, and all New Yorkers who are concerned about the quality of their homes and neighborhoods.”

For more information or to lend your support to the removal of these signs, go to www.gvshp.org/GansvBlbd.htm

Filed Under: Community | New York | Politics | Take Action

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