Board 1 Goes To Bat For Building Sign
For more than 70 years, a large advertising sign painted on the exterior wall of a four-story apartment house has looked out over the entrance ramp to the Robert F. Kennedy (Triborough) Bridge in Astoria.
A permit was issued by the City Department of Buildings for the sign in 1941 and again in 1981. But in recent months, five summonses were issued in regard to the sign by the Department of Buildings.
“Here we are,” Paul Kerson, an attorney representing Nick and Steve Kesoglides, owners of the building, said at the May 15 meeting of Community Board 1 after three of the five summonses were dismissed at a February hearing before the Environmental Control Board (ECB) while two others were upheld in the amount of $10,000 each.
The board voted unanimously to approve a request to the Bureau of Standards and Appeals reversing a determination by the Department of Buildings refusing to register the advertising sign on the wall of the property.
The Kesoglides brothers purchased the building, located at 24-59 32nd St. in 1998 and Nick Kesoglides lives in the building, where the other apartments are rented. The additional revenue generated from renting the wall space for advertising was a specific reason for their buying the property. “They make a good income from this sign,” Kerson said on behalf of Astoria Landing, the company owned by the Kesoglides brothers.
Astoria Landing paid the fine and Kerson entered the city bureaucracy on the Kesoglides’ behalf, arguing the ECB decision, reversed the $20,000 in fines returned and the painted wall sign “grandfathered”.
“We ask you to please find that this sign which has been in Astoria for over 70 years is legal,” Kerson said.
The DOB contended that Astoria Landing was not registered as an outdoor advertising company. Although Kerson argued the Kesoglides brothers were just owners of an apartment house and not an outdoor advertising company, they complied and registered as an outdoor advertising company only to have the application rejected by the DOB. After the matter was referred to the DOB central sign unit, it was decided a ruling by the Bureau of Standards and Appeals was necessary and all BSA hearings must first go through the local community board.
Paul Halvatzis, owner of 24-62 32nd St., said he has also received violations for a sign on his building. “The whole situation is unjust,” he said.
Zoning regulations for signs were for many years all but ignored. In 2001, the City Council amended the zoning resolution and in 2005 fines were significantly increased. After a legal challenge by a group of billboard owners failed in 2009, the city began to enforce the new regulations, fining owners tens of thousands of dollars.
“Why isn’t the city going after the sign at the [Astoria Boulevard] subway station?” Nick Spanos asked from the audience. “Astoria wouldn’t be Astoria without those signs. They’ve been there forever.”
In other business, the following applications for unenclosed sidewalk cafes were approved: Max, 47-02 30th Ave., 14 tables and 28 seats; William Hallet, 36-10 30th Ave., 6 tables and 12 seats; Pizzeria Uno, 37-11 35th Ave., 8 tables and 22 seats; Lefkos Pirgos Coffee, 22-85 31st St., 12 tables and 24 seats; 5 Napkin Burger, 35-01 36th St., 26 tables and 70 seats; Watawa Japanese Restaurant, 33-10 Ditmars Blvd., 10 tables and 26 seats; Martha’s Country Bakery, 36-21 Ditmars Blvd., 21 tables and 41 seats; Romano’s Pizza, 32-21 through -25 Broadway, 13 tables and 26 seats; Bugatti Café, 31-05 34th St., 12 tables and 24 seats.