Give peace no chance.

Screen Shot 2015-11-27 at 5.27.04 PMA judge ruled against a resident of the historic Ansonia on Broadway and 73rd street who hung an illuminated peace sign in her window. The city had fined Brigitte Vosse $800 for hanging the sign, which violated rules against using illuminated signs higher than 40 feet up in residential districts.

Vosse had challenged the fine on First Amendment grounds, the Daily News reported.

In a ruling made public Friday, Judge Jed Rakoff ruled in favor of the city, noting the regulation provided Vosse with plenty of other alternatives to get her message across – such as not using an illuminated sign.

A lawyer for Vosse, Timothy Collins, told the New York Law Journal he and his client were weighing an appeal.

He called her sign “a simple and elegant personal statement about her desire for peace in the world.”

“The fact that it was illuminated made it an effective statement. Otherwise it would have been virtually invisible from her 17th-floor apartment,” the told the paper.

Thumbnail image via sandrus10009.

NEWS | 50 comments | permalink
    1. Outraged says:

      Our courts are busied by this? This is an outrageous overreaching by the city. Nothing commercial here, just a display of hope. Rather than peace, maybe we should all put signs in our windows encouraging common sense. And if this was a display of Christmas – um, I mean Holiday – lights, arranged in a peace sign pattern, troops of religious zealots would be demanding its acceptance and citing religious freedom. I suppose hopeful, peaceful citizens don’t get the benefit of that same protection. Maybe they should proclaim being Peaceifarians.

    2. UWS Dept of Comment says:

      Hey, Vosse…the law is the law.
      If you’re so into peace, deal with it.

    3. Mark says:

      Yeah, that peace sign really ruined the neighborhood. Good thing those vendors are out there to make things look gorgeous.

      • Brandi S. says:

        Can’t you for once just leave them out of this? It’s a shame this woman has to take down something so wonderful, but your attitude towards the vendors outside is the same as the judge was towards Ms. Vosse. You have to walk by vendors on the Upper West Side, deal with it!

    4. Peter Johnson says:

      Seems like a reasonable law that prohibits illuminated signs above 40 feet in residential areas. Just imagine having a giant “H O T E L” sign flashing outside your window when you are trying to sleep. I recall that there was an illuminated red umbrella on a Citi building on Greenwich Street. Was that okay?

      • Mark says:

        Really? This sign was blinking into someone’s window?
        I guess the “one size fits all” model is necessary for people who can’t make considerations on an individual basis.

    5. Bob Panza says:

      damn, yo. give peace a chance.

    6. Ed says:

      Wow. I agree this on the surface seems to be an overreaching of the court but I guess the “law” applies to the humble Peace sign as well as if were a neon sign for an electrolysis business.
      I am not trying to be political here although I have seen the sign and liked it. Now, work with me on this one. As I read it, you cannot have an illuminated sign. Meaning a sign that generates it’s own light. What if Ms. Vosse were to leave the unlit sign in her window, covered the frame inside her apartment with frosted plastic and placed a red (or any other color)light bulb so it were to light up the frosted covering and thus create a silhouette of the Peace sign? That eliminates the issue of an illuminated sign, no? Anyway, I’m just saying. As JL said, “Give Peace a chance.”

    7. Gee, I wonder what you would all be saying if this wasn’t a Peace sign but maybe something a little more objectionable. I don’t know….maybe a Swastica or something!! A Confederate flag maybe….Hmmm….maybe a large phallic symbol of some sort….ok, I think you get my point.

      Listen, Lady….stop being a trouble maker and do something meaningful if you just have so much to say and you want peace, love, etc.. Hanging a symbol in your window is literally the least you can do. You are better and smarter than that. Go volunteer, write your Congressperson, help someone instead of spending a fortune on legal fees because you want attention and somehow feel slighted.

      NYC gets it right sometimes…

      • Mark says:

        Again, here we have the “one size fits all” model to make life easier for people who can’t think independently or critically.
        Interesting that you make the recommendations you make of how she should spend her time. Apparently you know her and you believe she doesn’t do anything constructive?

      • Witness says:

        Completely agreed and was just about to make the same point. I loved the sign and thought it was perfectly situated on the building. A neon sign of hate would have been equally protected under the decision. Unless you want to turn every block into Times Square, it’s best to keep the residential zoning restrictions in lighted signs in place.

      • UWSsurfer says:

        You have no idea how Ms. Vosse has helped and will continue to help people and the community.

    8. Randy says:

      So, what about the neon Verizon sign that is seen from any residence close to the water in Brooklyn looking into Manhattan, completely and totally destroying the skyline? No, that’s fine, that can stay. You people who have a problem with this peace sign and no problem with that sign are hypocrites. Or maybe you just like giant UGLY corporate signs and hate really small, individual signs. That’s cool, I guess.

    9. John says:

      If they allowed this another person could get a neon ISIS flag in their window using the same argument.

      • Mark says:

        Wow, so much drama with so little thought.

      • Independent says:

        Exactly, John. If the law were to start making exceptions based on the character of the sign, it would become completely subjective, arbitrary and capricious. There would be endless dispute, contention and litigation that would tie-up the legal system.

    10. UWS Dept of Comment says:

      If she is an advocate for peace (and not just a phony), she should follow the law that is designed for ALL of us




    11. zeus says:

      Time to put the WAR sign up.

      Ridiculous ruling by the court.

      • pub says:

        really? why? you’re obviously a communist.

        the law is the law for all.

        don’t like the law?? CHANGE IT.

        • Zeus says:

          I am obviously a communist?

          Far from it old pubby boy.

          Does anybody who does not like a certain law needs to be tagged a communist?

          And BTW – what are you?

          Sure sounds like a sad old boy to me.

          • Mark says:

            I think the term “communist” is bandied about by many conservatives who have no idea what the word actually means.
            In a similar way they throw around “political correctness” and even the term “liberal”. It’s rather charming really.

    12. nycityny says:

      If it was a sign of hate it would be wrong to have it up. It is a sign of peace hurting nobody so having it up should not be a problem.

      Having two different thoughts about two different situations is not so difficult. We don’t have to be robots about this.

      • Eric says:

        “If it was a sign of hate it would be wrong to have it up”

        Really? Isn’t the act of tolerating even speech we find hateful what makes America great? To me, that’s what proves what kind of people we are. That we support someone’s right to say things that we disagree with, not just what we feel comfortable hearing.

        In this case I feel it’s just a matter of applying the signage ordinance in an even-handed away. I certainly do not want a judge deciding what speech is acceptable and what is not.

        • Independent says:

          Quite correct, Eric, on both counts.

          First, that it is the expression of unpopular and even repugnant ideas and sentiments for which legal protection is necessary; no one objects to speech that they find favorable. (Many people have made this point. Noam Chomsky perhaps most famously.)

          Second, that the suggestion that an ordinance such as the one-in-question here be applied selectively, based on a determination of the character of the object-in-question– a determination that would, necessarily, be completely subjective, if not arbitrary and capricious– is entirely inappropriate and downright disturbing.

          Reading a comment such as yours is encouraging.

          • anon says:

            This. 1000x. Whenever the courts have to do something along these lines there is trouble (like the “we know it when we see it” problematic sort-of-definition of obscenity). I can only imagine the litigation and general mayhem if in NYC it was “I know protected signage when I see it.” No. Just no. They got this one right.

    13. Ted says:

      I guess the judge missed out on the fact that the Vietnam War ended decades ago and we are no longer under threat of long haired hippie peace-niks.

    14. Patricia says:

      Appeal! The intent of that law is presumably to guard against commercial usage, which this isn’t. That peace sign is needed more than ever and it’s a comfort to see while walking up Broadway.

    15. Aline Sosne says:

      I think we could use MORE peace signs
      Illuminating the nation and fewer guns
      Firing at will!!!!

    16. Independent says:

      In addition to the points I made in previous posts, I would like to add:

      Regardless of the message or character that they convey, neon signs are, by their very nature, inherently inordinately bright, loud and distracting. (Many would go so far as to call neon garish.) As such, neon signage has no place on residential property that is clearly, widely and unavoidably visible to the public– at least not in densely populated areas, such as the one-in-question here.

      Imagine if even as few as, say, 10% of all of the windows in a building such as the Ansonia had in them lighted-neon in one form or another. Imagine the light pollution and defacement of the visual environment that would be created.

      From all of the information presented here thus far, I can only conclude that this ruling constituted an entirely reasonable and just application of a completely valid and necessary law.

      • Bernie says:

        I disagree with Independent’s point that no one objects to speech that they find favorable. It’s entirely consistent to favor the sentiment expressed in the peace sign and yet be opposed to the sign itself for the reasons underlying the city prohibition. As for those who argue that the sign should be allowed because of its message of peace, they need to brush up on their understanding of how the First Amendment works. The government cannot allow certain signs because it approves of the message while disallowing other signs if it doesn’t like the message. The First Amendment requires the government to be content-neutral.

        • Independent says:

          I completely agree with everything that you have written above.

          I’m not sure you understood the point of mine that you cited.

      • Mark says:

        Sounds like the classic issue of creating a problem where one doesn’t exist.
        Lots of “what if”s there that don’t seem to happen in the real world.

      • UWSsurfer says:

        Brigitte Vosse’s peace sign is not neon.

        It was only red during the Christmas holiday
        season. Other times it was white. The bluish white light was lovely.

        Just like a poster above, I miss seeing it when walking north on Broadway.

        On the W. 74rd St. side of the Ansonia, you see a red neon sign up in a window of a dentist that says, “Braces.” Granted, it is on a lower floor and covered by the law but
        is Brigitte’s peace sign worse? I don’t think so.

        I like the “Braces” sign in that it looks like something from a Sam Spade novel.

    17. tyler says:

      isn’t the weather sign on the apple bank apartments higher than 40 feet?