Coffee shop and apparel store Upstate Stock is calling on patrons to sign a petition to prevent their landlord from installing a billboard. The petition is addressed to the city’s Department of Buildings and asks them to deny their landlord’s proposed permit

“When we took the space at 2 Berry, an abandoned warehouse with no power or water, in 2015 I had a handshake agreement with my landlord for use of the outside on North 14th for a patio. For 4 years our landlord never allowed us to use it as he rented the wall to Seen Media for advertising, making over $50,000 a year off it by 2019. After threatening legal action we finally wrestled it away, and put in our patio. Now, the landlord would like to put in a billboard on our roof.”

Excerpt from Upstate Stock’s petition

Upstate Stock claims that the roof has structural damage and is already in need of repairs. Aside from the physical damage, the shop worries about the potential for the character of the neighborhood to be damaged as well.

“The city needs to address the use of empty commercial spaces for advertising immediately. If a landlord can make $100,000 a year off of a 1600 sq. foot commercial lot they will never have incentive to fill those spaces and will leave them empty for years and years waiting for a multi-chain retail or bank to come along and pay anything they want.”

The COVID-19 pandemic brought heightened awareness to the plight of small businesses. Many beloved institutions across the country shuttered for myriad reasons, and vacant storefronts haunt whole swaths of city blocks in New York.

Concerns about the character of the neighborhood are valid, though the stretch of Williamsburg-turning-into-Greenpoint on which Upstate Stock is located might already be a lost cause. Hand-painted advertisements and signs proliferate nearby Wythe Avenue, and this writer has always wondered why exactly we need a bespoke, artisanal Flamin’ Hot Cheetos display on the side of a building.

I don’t think we need another.

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