‘The One with the Huge Illegal Signs’: Huge ‘Friends’ billboard in Soho gets city violation

The big “Friends” billboard at 503 Broadway has received neighbor complaints and a DOB violation. (Photo by Gabe Herman)

BY GABE HERMAN | Could that “Friends” billboard in Soho be any bigger?

Apparently, the sign at 503 Broadway is more than big enough for some local residents, and for the Department of Buildings (DOB), which has issued violations for that sign and others that the pop-up has displayed in recent weeks.

The pop-up is currently in its month-long run, open through Oct. 6. It includes a retail store entrance at 503 Broadway and an entrance on the other side of the building, at 76 Mercer St., for an “immersive experience” that includes set recreations, props and costumes from the classic ‘90s sitcom.

Warner Bros. and Superfly, which organizes concerts and is doing another ‘90s sitcom pop-up in Manhattan for “Seinfeld,” opened up the Friends pop-up earlier this month.

Under the scaffolding at 503 Broadway. (Courtesy Pete Davies)

While crowds outside weren’t large as the pop-up opened in September, Sean Sweeney, director of the Soho Alliance, said he was not happy with the big sign on Broadway. “The humongous billboard on the scaffolding within an historic district is indeed a problem,” he said.

Pete Davies, a longtime Soho resident, remarked, “Perhaps this episode should be called: ‘The One with the Huge Illegal Signs.’”

DOB met with organizers of the “Friends” pop-up in August before the signs went up, according to a DOB spokesperson, to go over the Department’s guidelines.

The entrance for the “immersive experience” tour is on the other side of the building, at 76 Mercer St. (Photo by Gabe Herman)

On Sept. 17, however, DOB inspectors went to 503 Broadway after a 311 complaint from a member of the public, the spokesperson said, and after concerns were expressed by local officials about illegal signs on the building.

“DOB’s investigation found that there were six illegal signs hung at the building,” the DOB rep said, “including several underneath the sidewalk shed outside the building, and an approximately 1,800 square feet sign hanging on the protective scaffold netting above,” referring to the large “Friends” billboard.

Inside the pop-up’s retail store. (Photo by Gabe Herman)

Four of the illegal signs were for the “Friends” event, while two others were for a Zara retail store, according to DOB.

Thirteen total violations were issued to the building owner, according to DOB, including for the huge billboard, which exceeded the allowable advertising surface area of 1,200 square feet in a manufacturing zone. There were also five violations for an outdoor advertising company sign on display without a permit, and three violations for an illegal sign hanging from the sidewalk shed.

A hearing date is being scheduled for the 13 violations at the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings, according to DOB, and if the violations are upheld at the hearing, fines could total up to $100,000.

Organizers of the “Friends” pop-up event did not respond to a request for comment about the signs.

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