Senator Jamaal T. Bailey and Assemblymember Michael Benedetto today announced the signing of legislation aimed at protecting residents near Mitchell-Lama housing from the adverse effects of digital billboards. The new law, S1931B / A7456A, prohibits digital billboards or signs using flashing, intermittent, or moving lights within fifteen hundred feet of Mitchell-Lama housing with no fewer than ten thousand units in cities with a population of one million or more. Local legislation, Res. 0797-2023, was introduced in September by Council Member Kevin C. Riley in the New York City Council.
The legislation addresses the challenges faced by communities like Co-op City where lighting from large electronic billboards has posed serious concerns to the quality of life of residents. Local residents and community members in Co-op City have long opposed the operation of the digital billboards and rallied against the installation of new billboards. The operation of digital billboards has proven to be detrimental in particular to the well-being and safety of vulnerable populations. Co-op City is home to the nation’s largest naturally occurring retirement community (NORC), including a significant senior population.
High-intensity lighting emitted by digital billboards has been linked to various health problems, including headaches, eye strain, fatigue, and disrupted sleep patterns. Residents have reported difficulties in focusing, sleeping, and normal daily activities caused by the intense illumination of ultrabright LEDs over prolonged periods. The content displayed on the billboards, including alcohol-related and provocative advertisements, has raised serious concerns given the billboards’ proximity to an education complex comprising six campus buildings serving students from elementary to high school levels.
“Businesses should not be able to profit off of our communities while putting our health and safety at risk,” said Senator Jamaal T. Bailey. “Our residents deserve to live in a safe and healthy environment. Exposure to excessively bright billboards and constant high-intensity lighting from billboards have been linked to serious health and safety concerns. This legislative victory is a collective effort that demonstrates the strength of our community. Co-op City residents have been fighting against these disruptive billboards for years, and I am proud we were able to finally put an end to this practice and deliver this win for our community members. Our community’s voices made a difference. Now, with this legislation, we are taking a proactive step to prevent such issues in the future. I want to thank Assemblymember Michael Benedetto and Council Member Kevin C. Riley for their work on this legislation, Governor Kathy Hochul, Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, and Speaker Carl Heastie for prioritizing the health and well-being of our community.”
“Our Digital Billboard Legislation will once and for all prevent the construction and operation of disruptive and abusive billboards that would have shined all night into Co-op City’s bedrooms,” said Assemblymember Michael R. Benedetto. “This is a great victory for the Co-op City community a few days before the start of the New Year. I thank Governor Kathy Hochul for understanding the significance of this legislation, as well as my colleagues in Albany, State Senator Jamaal Bailey, Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and in NYC, City Council Member Kevin C. Riley.”
“Today marks a monumental step towards safeguarding the health and quality of life for families in the Northeast Bronx and statewide,” said Council Member Kevin C. Riley. “With the support of Governor Kathy Hochul, Speaker Carl Heastie, and Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins endorsing Res. 0797-2023 and S1931B/A7456A, we celebrate the collaborative effort between city and state to prioritize policy that serves the well-being of New York residents. In concert with Senator Bailey and Assembly Member Benedetto, we spearheaded legislation that not only tackles light pollution near Mitchell-Lama housing but also cultivates a healthier environment. This initiative aims to diminish the risks associated with disrupted sleep cycles and health disparities in our communities, specifically arising from the operation of large digital billboards emitting excessive artificial light. I am grateful for this partnership with my colleagues in government, the Co-op City community and all stakeholders for the dedication to improving the lives of New Yorkers for a sustainable future.”
Violations will incur civil penalties of one thousand dollars for the first offense and five thousand dollars for all subsequent violations.
The legislation will take effect sixty days after becoming law.