Have you ever heard that phrase “Post No Bills?” Many constructions sites still have this warning. The description “Bills” is a term that is used to refer to advertising and it has survived throughout the years in advertising such as a “Billboard” or a “Handbill.” Well, no matter the origin, the meaning is the same; the phrase means do not affix any posters or advertisements in this area.

In our modern times of Internet commerce and electronic marking you would think that this phrase, “Post No Bills,” would no longer have a meaning. Think again because we are seeing a rise in this type of anonymous advertising. Do you wonder why? Simple, it’s a cheap way to get a message out to the public, and violators conclude that it’s easier to pay the fine because the advertisement achieved its goal of alerting the public to whatever the sign’s message is selling.

Also, the advertisement is usually posted by suspicious characters looking to make a quick buck. Their particular target is usually the older person who seems the most vulnerable prey in the marketplace because they are too trusting.

In many cases we can thank our politicians because they are big time violators of the illegal signs we see plastered all over our neighborhoods. Candidate signs on light polls, electric polls, bus stop poles, and trees seem to be a common theme leading up to elections and the public probably concludes that they are a necessary evil. Wrong! The posting of these notices is illegal and they create a visual pollution because often, after the election, they remain in place with no follow-up to remove them.
Do you recall that in October of this year, a ruling against the city’s comptroller, John Liu, for over $500,000 was upheld by the Office of Administrative Trials & Hearings for illegally posting political advertisements during his 2009 campaign? You can bet John Liu understands the seriousness of the illegal signs!

In other cases we can look toward some of our local residents trying to make extra money walking dogs, giving piano lessons or advertising a yard sale, particularly in the warmer months when illegal signs are so common that we’ve become indifferent to their illegality and visual pollution.

One of the most serious results of illegal advertisements is that people post them to trees, which can harm the tree to the extent that the tree could die. The violation is so common that no one thinks of a seemingly innocent sign nailed to a tree can have serious consequences for the tree’s future.

We all know it is illegal to have a commercial business in a residential home but often when that violation occurs residents think it’s just fine to post a sign on their lawn. This is a violation and it should be reported to 311 or online at nyc.gov.

The particular city law that addresses illegal signs is in the Administrative Code of NYC (§10-119, §10-121(a-e, g)).

The law is clear on this matter, it is not legal to post advertisements of any kind to public property and to willingly disregard the law is not something that we should encourage or ignore. It may sound harsh but justice is blind, there are no “small” laws that can be disregarded when they are inconvenient.

This article is written to sound the alarm that there are monetary consequences to posting signs illegally and you, the public, control the practice. The internet is a great place to look into the matter more thoroughly. The website nyc.gov is a good place to start because you can access the Sanitation Department’s site from nyc.gov/sanitation.

The Sanitation Department is responsible for enforcing many of these laws and keep in mind that when a poster is left affixed to a city pole, we the taxpayers pay to have it removed. You should also be aware that for each illegal sign the violator can be traced via the phone number posted on the illegal sign. The cost for those fines can be steep and the NYC Sanitation Department is serious about collecting the money.

Along with internet access you can report illegal advertising to 311. Be accurate and clear with the location of the sign and any information regarding who posted it. Please do not respond to any illegal advertising because many times the violator is a charlatan looking to make a quick buck and if you do respond you have no recourse if something goes wrong and, believe it, everything will go wrong if you put your hard earned money on an illegal and anonymous advertiser. You are contributing to the problem if you accept this advertising as a legitimate practice.

One last important message. The proliferation of illegal signs asking you to donate your car should be viewed as suspicious and always avoided. Check with your tax preparer because unless you itemize your deductions, and many people do not, especially older taxpayers, there is no tax benefit from donating your car. If you want to donate your car, do so with a legitimate charity and unfortunately they are getting harder and harder to find!