The City’s sign regulations and zoning laws reduce visual clutter and protect people from dangerously installed signs. Signs must comply with regulations outlined in the NYC Construction Codes, the NYC Zoning Resolution and the Rules of the City of New York. Failure to comply may result in the issuance of violations and the assessing of fines.

The Sign Enforcement Unit regulates outdoor signage on buildings and premises in New York City. The Unit also administers the Outdoor Advertising Registration program.

Is it a Sign?

The definitions of sign in the Zoning Resolution and Construction Code are very broad and include most displays:

  • Per ZR §12-10, a sign is defined in relevant part as: any writing (including letter, word, or numeral), pictorial representation (including illustration or decoration), emblem (including device, symbol, or trademark), flag, (including banner or pennant), or any other figure of similar character, that: (a) is a structure or any part thereof, or is attached to, painted on, or in any other manner represented on a #building or other structure#; (b) is used to announce, direct attention to, or advertise; and (c) is visible from outside a #building#.

  • Per BC H103, a sign is defined in relevant part as: any letter, figure, character, mark, plane, point, marquee sign, design, poster, pictorial, picture, stroke, stripe, line, trademark, reading matter or illuminated service, which shall be constructed, placed, attached, painted, erected, fastened or manufactured in any manner whatsoever, so that the same shall be used for the attraction of the public to any place, subject, person, firm, corporation, public performance, article, machine or merchandise, whatsoever, which is displayed in any manner outdoors. Every sign shall be classified and conform to the requirements of that classification as set forth in this chapter.

Types of Signs

  • Accessory Sign
    A sign that directs attention to a business at the sign’s location. These are often referred to as business or on-premises signs.

  • Advertising Sign
    A sign that directs attention to goods or services at a location other than the premises where the sign is located. Advertising signs are only permitted in certain zoning districts throughout the City.

  • Construction Sign
    A sign that is required to be displayed at a premises during construction or demolition.

  • Non-commercial Sign
    A non-advertising sign that is neither an advertising sign nor an accessory sign.

Sign Regulations

The NYC Construction Code provides guidance on the safe installation of signs structures including when permits and licensed sign hangers are required. The NYC Construction Code also provides detailed information on required and prohibited construction and demolition signage.

The Zoning Resolution provides guidance on the location, size, height, projection and illumination of signs. The permissible use of a sign depends on the zoning district in which the sign is located. All signs are strictly limited in Residential districts and advertising signs are banned in most commercial districts.  There are also restrictions for signs within view of arterial highways (List of Arterial Highways) and public parks (List of Public Parks One-half Acre or Larger). 

Chapter 49 of the Rules of the City of New York contain specific regulations related to Articles 502 and 503 of the Construction Code including the Outdoor Advertising Registration Program and the installation and removal of specified signs.

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