Installing a Business Sign: Step-by-Step Guide 

The City’s business sign regulations reduce visual clutter and protect people from dangerously installed signs. Business signs must comply with regulations outlined in the New York City Construction Codes, the New York City Zoning Resolution and the Rules of the City of New York. Special District and Historic District regulations may also apply depending on where a sign is located. Together, these regulations dictate the permissible size, location, projection over sidewalk and illumination of a sign, as well as who may act as applicant for a sign permit and who may install or remove a sign. 

There are different types of signs. This guide focuses on installing business signs, which are also referred to as accessory signs. Business signs are signs that direct attention to a business at the location of the sign.

Failure to comply with applicable sign regulations could result in the issuance of violations and the imposition of civil penalties. However, there is currently a moratorium on the issuance of business sign violations (see Local Law 28 of 2019). Under this moratorium, until February 9, 2021, DOB will not issue violations for business signs that existed on or before February 9, 2019, unless the sign is not eligible for the moratorium for reasons such as being an imminent threat to public health or safety. DOB encourages business owners to bring their business signs into compliance during this moratorium to avoid violations and the imposition of civil penalties in the future. 

A permit is required to install most business signs. Follow the steps below to ensure your business sign is properly installed.

STEP 1: Determine your Zoning District of your property, which will inform the type of sign you may install and the sign size limits.
To determine the Zoning District of your property and its applicable Zoning Regulations, visit the Department of City Planning’s Zoning and Land Use Application (ZoLa). Knowing the Zoning District of your property will allow you to determine how large your individual business sign can be aensure it complies with all regulations.

The chart below summarizes the applicable Zoning Regulations, broken down by Commercial and Manufacturing Zoning Districts.

Size Regulations in Commercial & Manufacturing Districts
   District Sign Type 
Size of
Individual Sign
(max)   
Surface Area
for All Signs1
on a Zoning Lot 
Surface Area for
Flashing2
or
Illuminated Signs
 Height Above
Curb Level

(max)
 C1, C2 Accessory 150sf 3 x street frontage
(150sf total)
Illuminated Only:
3 x street
frontage
(50sf total)
25ft

C3

Accessory 50sf 50sf (total) Not Permitted 25ft
C5
(exc. C5-4)
Accessory 200sf 3 x street
frontage
(200sf total)
Not Permitted 25ft

C4, C5-4, C6
(exc. C6-5,  C6-7)

Accessory 500sf 5 x street
frontage
(500sf total)
5 x street
frontage
(500sf total)
40ft
C6-5, C6-7, C7
Accessory
------------
Advertising


No Restriction

No Restriction No Restriction No Restriction
C8 Accessory


------------


Advertising


Illuminated or
Flashing 500sf

Non-Illuminated
750sf
------------------------

Indirect Illumination4
500sf

Non-Illuminated
750sf

6 x street frontage 5 x street
frontage
40ft Illuminated

58ft
Non-lluminated

or

Indirectly Illuminated
M1, M2, M3
Accessory



------------


Advertising

Illuminated or Flashing
500sf

Indirect Illumination
750sf5

Non-Illuminated
1,200sf6
---------------------------

Indirect Illumination4
 750sf5

Non-Illuminated
 1,200sf6

6 x street
frontage
5 x street
frontage
40ft Illuminated

75ft
Non-lluminated

or

Indirectly Illuminate7

Up to 3 illuminated non-flashing window signs totaling no more than 8 square feet are exempt
Illuminated signs that change periodically to show the time, temperature or similar information
    are not considered flashing signs
Flashing signs are not permitted in C6-1A districts
Illuminated or flashing signs are not permitted
500 square feet in M1 districts that allow residential use
750 square feet in M1 districts that allow residential use
58 feet for indirectly illuminated sign within 500 feet of a residence district or C1 through
    C6 district

STEP 2: Determine if a permit is required to install your business sign.
Permits are not required for certain signs, including signs painted directly onto a building and wall signs of not more than 6 square feet in surface area. Even where no permit is required, signs must comply with and be allowable by Zoning.

If your sign is not painted directly onto a building and is greater than 6 square feet in surface area, a permit is required.

STEP 3: Determine the type of permit(s) required to install your business sign.
The types of permits required to install your business sign depend on the type of sign you wish to install. Required permits may include:

  • A Sign Permit, for the size, content and location of the sign;
  • An Alteration Type 3 Permit for the structural and installation details of the sign;
  • An Electrical Permit for a sign that requires an electrical connection; or
  • An Annual Illuminated Sign Permit for signs that are both illuminated and extend beyond the building line.

STEP 4: Determine if you must hire a Registered Design Professional to apply for required sign permits or if a Licensed Sign Hanger can apply for required sign permits.
A Licensed Sign Hanger may act as the applicant and installer for a sign permit for smaller business signs, those that are up to 150 square feet in surface area and up to 300 pounds in weight. 

If your business sign is greater than 150 square feet in surface area or greater than 300 pounds in weight, you must hire a Registered Design Professional (New York State licensed professional engineer or registered architect) to act as the applicant for a sign permit.

STEP 5: Hire a Licensed Sign Hanger to install your business sign.
The raising or lowering of any sign requires a Licensed Sign Hanger. Find a Licensed Sign Hanger.

Additional Resources

  • Zoning District & Zoning Regulations - Determine the Zoning District and applicable Zoning Regulations for your property. Visit the Department of City Planning website at www.nyc.gov/planning
  • Accessory Business Sign Webinar - View the business sign presentation which includes an overview of applicable regulations and information regarding sign installallation.
  • Correcting Sign Violations - Get the necessary information to correct sign violations.