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Queens Chronicle

Bigger fines asked for illegal signs

Councilman Weprin wants higher city penalties to deter the blight

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Posted: Thursday, May 31, 2012 10:30 am | Updated: 11:38 am, Thu Jun 7, 2012.

Queens civic leaders are hailing Councilman Mark Weprin’s proposed legislation that would triple fines for illegally posted signs on public property.

The Oakland Gardens Democrat announced last week that he will introduce legislation to deter the proliferation of signs on utility poles, trees and street lights. He particularly pointed to the recent increase of such signage along Hillside Avenue in Bellerose.

“They have become unsightly, a hazard to motorists and are illegal,” Weprin said, adding that the fines “would exemplify the seriousness of the effort to discourage criminals and make enforcement a priority of the Department of Sanitation.”

Fines are now $75 for each violation. Although the DOS issues the summonses, the outcome of each case is decided by the city’s Environmental Control Board.

“Unfortunately, the illegal posters feel it’s worth the risk of a fine,” Weprin said, adding they believe it’s the cost of doing business, but tripling the fines might make them think twice.

Jerry Wind, president of the Bellerose Hillside Civic Association, said the growing number of signs is a distraction to drivers and “illegal signs are an unsightly blemish on our neighborhoods.”

Bob Holden, president of the Juniper Valley Civic Association in Middle Village, believes Weprin’s plan has merit, but that the penalties should be quadrupled. “And the fines should double with each offense,” Holden said. “The businesses know they are not supposed to be doing it, but the city hasn’t addressed it at all. Then you get two, three or four signs on each pole. It’s an eyesore.”

Peter Brancazio heads the Northeast Flushing Civic Association and said illegal signs have been posted in front of his house: “It’s outrageous, and now they are gluing them, which makes them hard to remove.”

Don Capalbi, president of the Queensboro Hill Neighborhood Association, said the signs deface public property and likened them to “posterboard graffiti.”

Michael Augugliaro, a member of the Queens Colony Civic Association in Bellerose, noted that many posters are cementing the signs and damaging public property. “Not only should violators be fined for posting the signs, but a fine should be issued for vandalism,” he said.

Like Holden, Tyler Cassell, president of the North Flushing Civic Association, believes stiffer legislation is needed to curtail the continued use ofutility poles, trees, and other places for advertising.“Our neighborhoods are cluttered with signs for cash for cars, call this number to make money working from home, etc. etc.,” Cassell said.“I am continually taking them down.”

He thinks signs for lost animals and garage sales should be exempt as long as they are removed in a timely fashion. “Garage sale signs should be taken down right after the end of the sale,” Cassell said. “The responsiblity should lie with those having the sales.Lost animal signsshould be allowed to remain for a reasonable period of time, maybe 60 days.”

Fred Kress of Rosedale is coordinator of Citizens Against Graffiti Everywhere and called the illegal signs “just another form of graffiti that is bringing down the quality of life in our communities.”

Rick Duskiewicz, past president of the Creedmoor Civic Association in Bellerose, has been leading the fight against the illegal signs for years. “These businesses are not getting hit enough with fines,” Duskiewicz said. “It’s time-consuming for people to call 311 to complain and we never know if the businesses get hit with fines.”

He said the DOS has been good about sending out inspectors after receiving complaints, but that the outcome is never known. “The offenders are getting very brazen,” Duskiewicz added. “They are now gluing the signs and putting them up very high, which makes them hard to remove.”

Weprin hopes Mayor Bloomberg supports his measure as another way of greening the city.

Duskiewicz thinks he knows why the mayor hasn’t done anything about the issue before. “I’m sure there are no illegal signs in Bloomberg’s neighborhood,” he said, “but there are plenty in Queens.”

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