Saturday, September 17, 2011

Windshield Flyers Could Be Gone —With the Wind (Published Dec. 31, 2003)

Windshield flyers, bah-humbug! Those annoying 8"x11" handbills drivers occasionally find under car windshield wipers promoting some local merchant are absolutely one of life’s minor nuisances. They drive me and, I’ve no doubt, other car owners, craaazzee!
Sadly, after a barrage of these commercial flyers are placed on cars, they often end up as wind-blown litter on city streets or when aggravated drivers crumble them into a wad and carelessly toss them to the ground. (I’m guilty of doing it.)
There oughta be a law prohibiting this frustrating quality-of-life abuse.
In case you’ve been caught up in the flurry of holiday season activity, a revised statewide regulation banning the distribution of handbills and flyers on windshields of motor vehicles recently went into effect. It became law November 1 throughout the state in cities with a population over one million. Needless to say, New York City is the only municipality in the state affected.
If the law is appropriately applied, it should either result in limiting subsequent handbill distribution or supplementing the city’s depleted treasuries through fines.
For a while after the law went into effect, flyers seemed scarce. In fact, for four-to-five-weeks I didn’t find any on my car, nor did I see any on cars near mine. But, in the past week, they were back!
Along with the other quality of life laws that are being given emphasis, this revised law is a welcome addition, but it will only carry weight if it is enforced to the same extent as parking rules and other sanitation regulations.
Previously, only police officers were authorized to issue windshield flyer summonses. And then only when they actually caught someone placing the flyer on a car. Somehow I doubt it was even rarely, if ever, enforced. But the law has been amended to include permitting Department of Sanitation enforcement officers to issue violations that presume "any person or group whose name, telephone numbers, or other identifying information" appearing on the handbill to be held responsible and, therefore, accountable for its distribution.
Fines range from $75 for each handbill. Therefore, when ten flyers are found on vehicles in a one-block stretch, the distributor can be fined $750. Repeat offenders may subsequently be fined up to $150 for each flyer.
For small businesses, such as Laundromats, auto repair sites, car washes that resort to this mode of advertising it could be very costly. But again, the law has to be upheld to mean anything. Some merchants claim they hire a company to distribute fliers in particular areas, but can’t control where 
the fliers eventually are placed. Now, it is their responsibility to make sure the handbills are not illegally posted.
Banning windshield flyers is reasonable, but if it’s ignored, like lazy drivers who flout double-parking rules, which are necessary to maintain unrestricted traffic flow, and get away with it time after time, it’s pointless.
Brooklyn Republican Marty Golden, whose district includes several south Brooklyn communities, including Marine Park, sponsored the measure in the State Senate. Brooklyn Democrat Joan Millman sponsored the measure in the Assembly.
Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty welcomed the amended law saying it gave his department "real teeth in confronting and enforcing" an annoyance that causes excess litter.
Now let’s see if they can take a bite out of minor crime that has grown into a major annoyance.