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Floating digital billboards are officially banned from New York waterways

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation Tuesday to sink the glitzy billboards

A digital billboard barge on the Hudson River advertising the Nautica clothing brand.
Digital billboards, like this one on the Hudson River, are now banned from state waters.
Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

Those incandescent digital billboards that cruise along the Hudson and East rivers are officially banned from state waters.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation Tuesday that prohibits vessels with digital billboards or any other sort of billboard that uses flashing or moving lights from “operating, anchoring or mooring” in New York state’s navigable waters.

“These floating billboards are a nuisance that blight our shores and distract from the great natural beauty of our waterways,” Cuomo said in a statement. “This action will help make our waters more enjoyable and safer for everyone.”

The legislation’s passage and subsequent signing into law—effective immediately—comes after months of criticism that the over-the-top, Time Square-esque billboards on an eyesore on the city’s waterways and distract those traveling along the city’s shores.

“These floating billboards are a dangerous distraction to drivers, boaters, and pedestrians, not to mention an eyesore,” State Senator Brad Hoylman said in a statement. “In a state New Yorkers deserve to have a respite on our waterfront from the barrage of modern life.”

But the company behind the billboards, Ballyhoo Media, has questioned the ban and argues that they may have grounds to circumvent the state in the courts because the legislation interferes with interstate commerce, according to NY1. Ballyhoo did not immediately return requests for comment.

Ballyhoo began running its floating billboards in New York City last fall, after launching in 2016 in Miami, where their legality has also been challenged. The glitzy advertisements quickly gained a reputation in the city as a blight on the waterways, spurring the de Blasio administration to sue the company in an attempt to restrict their operation.

A judge did limited the distance the billboards can operate near highways with a preliminary injunction that prevents the barges from cruising within 1,500 feet of the city’s shore, but ultimately allowed the company to continue ferrying ads through the city. That case is ongoing.