Posted by: Patricia Salkin | October 26, 2016

Second Circuit Court of Appeals Upholds Regulation Prohibiting Illuminated Peace Sign in Upper West Side Window

Plaintiff Vosse sued the City of New York alleging that her right to free speech was violated when she was fined, pursuant to the City’s Zoning Resolution, for affixing an illuminated peace symbol to the exterior frame of a seventeenth-floor window in her condominium unit on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Previously, the Court held that the Plaintiff lacked standing to challenge the relevant regulations as content-based, but remanded to the district court to address whether the zoning regulations “constituted an unduly restrictive time, place, [or] manner restriction on speech.” Vosse v. City of New York, 594 F. App’x 52, 53 (2d Cir. 2015). On remand, the district court rejected Plaitoff’s argument that, even if the regulations are considered content-neutral, they still do not pass constitutional muster based on the manner of restriction. Vosse v. City of New York, 144 F. Supp. 3d 627 (S.D.N.Y. 2015).

The Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed finding that the content-neutral restriction on speech was  narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest, namely the City’s interest in “maintaining an aesthetically pleasing cityscape and preserving neighborhood character;” and it left open ample alternative channels for communication, noting that the height restriction in the Zoning Resolution does not prohibit non-illuminated, non-commercial signs and both sides agreed that the Plaintiff was free to display the same sign in her window, as long as it is not illuminated.  The Court noted that while the Plaintiff argued that an unilluminated sign would be harder for passers-by to see at night, “the First Amendment does not guarantee the right to communicate one’s views at all times and places or in any manner that may be desired.” Heffron v. Int’l Soc’y for Krishna Consciousness, Inc., 452 U.S. 640, 647 (1981).

Vosse v The City of New York, 2016 WL 6037372 (2nd Cir. CA 10/14/2016)

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