Nine years ago today, on a freezing cold February day (like today), Village Preservation and hundreds of neighbors protested the Hotel Gansevoort billboards that had just been erected at the corner of Hudson and Gansevoort Street. Village Preservation Exec. Dir. Andrew Berman’s statements then stand true today, “The Hotel Gansevoort profits in every way it can from this neighborhood – from its name to the views it enjoys over our low-rise buildings, which remain thanks to the landmark protections we fought for. Their eight-story high billboards… turn [these neighborhoods] into backdrops for their crass self-promotion and profit.”
Unfortunately, the Hotel Gansevoort billboards are on a block not included as part of Gansevoort Market Historic District, and thus did not need landmarks approval. GVSHP argued that the billboards were illegal based upon zoning rules, but the City refused to enforce what we saw as a pretty plain and clear interpretation of the zoning law.
Sadly but unsurprisingly, the Hotel has failed to even maintained the appearance of the billboards, as they promised to do at the time, as they continue to rake in millions of dollars per year at the expense of their neighbors.
Adding insult to injury, the Hotel Gansevoort flouted NYC’s billboard laws by installing what seemed to clearly be illegal billboards during fashion week, 2012. The Hotel Gansevoort has continued to install “temporary” billboards on the side of the building. When GVSHP went by earlier this week, not only were the huge 80 foot billboards as offensive as ever, but yet another billboard was installed on the Hudson Street side of the building, this time hawking the return of really, really, ridiculously good looking model Derek Zoolander. What we reported in 2012 remains true, “Of course an illegal billboard is an illegal billboard, and it doesn’t matter if it is “temporary” or not; however, because the offending sign came and went in just a few days, the slow-moving city bureaucracy did not investigate in time to determine its legality.”
It seems that the advertising agency promoting Zoolander 2 really has a flair for questionably legal billboards, as several people have brought the billboards on the landmarked Manufacturers Hanover Trust Company building on the southwest corner of 14th Street and 8th Avenue to our attention (see below). This building has been renamed the Derek Zoolander Center for People Who Don’t Age Good, in a marketing partnership with Kiehl’s. This historic Beaux-Arts building was built in 1907 and designated an individual landmark in 1988. Read its designation report here. Any addition to the building (like billboards) would require approval and permits from the Landmarks Preservation Commission. We understand they have none, and no doubt would never be granted them if they applied.
If you see any illegal billboards go up in a Historic District or on a landmarked property, please report them immediately to Village Preservation through our Preservation Watch program.