• Appeals Court Backs NYC in Billboard Case

    A federal appeals court ruled in favor of New York City in a long-running First Amendment battle.

    Mogul Media (Mohammad Malik) and other plaintiffs sued New York City in federal court, arguing zoning discrimination because outdoor ads are allowed at Citi Field ballpark but prohibited elsewhere in Queens.

    A year ago, US District Court Judge Paul A. Engelmayer granted the City’s motion to dismiss the case (Mogul Media v. City of New York).  The judge cited caselaw that said allowing some signs does not constitutionally require a city to allow all similar signs.

    Further, the federal trial court said the plaintiffs had not pursued their “takings” claim in state court, so the federal court lacked jurisdiction.

    In his 17-page order in late 2017, Judge Engelmayer quoted F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby as an historical footnote about billboards in New York City: “But above the gray land and the spasms of bleak rust which drift endlessly over it, you perceive, after a moment, the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg.  The eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg are blue and gigantic – their retinas are one yard high.”

    On December 7, 2018, a three-judge panel of the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court ruling (dismissing the plaintiffs’ case).

    “Any challenge premised on the allegation that the City deliberately zoned plaintiffs’ property differently from its own parkland property has no basis in law or fact,” the appeals court said, adding that the City does not have authority to regulate parkland that is home to Citi Field.

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