The flashing billboard, affixed to the second story of a Duane Reade at 72nd and Broadway, has generated complaints from neighborhood residents who say that the sign is disruptively bright. The Department of Buildings ordered the pharmacy chain to take the billboard down last month after ruling that the illuminated sign did not comply with the neighborhood’s regulations, and slapped the store with eight violations and over $6000 in fines.
“Duane Reade’s $250,000 jumbotron is a constant reminder of the store’s blatant disregard for the comfort and safety of the neighborhood,” said Assembly member Linda Rosenthal, who is spearheading Sunday’s protest. “Despite being issued eight notices of violation by the Department of Buildings for violating city zoning regulations and appeals by the community to take down the sign, the store refuses to remove it.”
Store representatives plan to contest the violations, and seem to be leaving the sign up in the meantime.
“I think the sign should come down,” said Councilmember Gale Brewer, who said she received a deluge of complaints from neighborhood residents when the sign first went up. “It’s a quality of life issue.
On the street level, opinions differ about the new addition to neighborhood. Most people The Observer talked to felt indifferent towards the sign. Some hardly noticed it in the daylight until it was pointed out.
A marketer who declined to give his name thought that the people in the neighborhood were “ridiculous” for wanting to stage a protest. “I mean, if it interfered with your sleep, sure, but it’s still ridiculous,” he said. “It’s New York. People should be more bothered by the subway noise.”
Yet some took the opportunity to voice their unhappiness with the sign.
“It’s absolutely horrifying. It’s out of character with the neighborhood. It’s intrusive and it’s extremely distracting at one of the most, where it’s placed, at one of the most dangerous pedestrian intersections of New York,” said an attorney who has lived in the neighborhood since 2001. “I will not shop at the Duane Reade on account of that sign.”
Kasm Abu works at a kiosk directly across from the jumbotron. Glancing up at it, he says he hardly ever notices it. “Every day it’s the same thing,” he said with a shrug.