Own a building on Broadway but detest the flashing lights? Too bad. As the code states:
There shall be a minimum of one illuminated sign with a surface area of not less than 1,000 square feet for each 50 linear feet, or part thereof, of street frontage.
There are instructions for precisely which direction Times Square’s signage must face and extraordinarily detailed diagrams for how the brightness of mandatory illuminated displays shall be measured.
Does your building feature a blinking sign? The rules require that the unlit phase not exceed three seconds. When can the bright lights be switched off? No earlier than 1:00 a.m.
According to Goldstein, Times Square’s survival as an outlandish area has at times been in jeopardy. “For example, when the Morgan Stanley building came in, they didn’t want to have any signs and lights over them,” she says. “There was concern that when those kinds of buildings went up, they weren’t going to want to have signs.”
It’s unclear how the city enforces these rules. Officials at the city’s Department of City Planning didn’t know of any examples in which building owners have been penalized for non-compliance with the special zoning rules.
Not that anyone with a profit motive would want to forgo the glitzy advertising. “We know some of those signs go for upwards of $1 million a year,” Goldstein said.
Well, as long as we're all on the same page, then.