North Bergen poised to ban digital billboard trucks

LED video and blasting speakers marked election season

The era of mobile billboard electioneering in North Bergen may soon be coming to an end.
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The era of mobile billboard electioneering in North Bergen may soon be coming to an end.

If you have a burning desire to drive through North Bergen’s streets in a truck equipped with video billboards and outward speakers to get your message across, you might have less than a month to do it.

At the most recent Board of Commissioners meeting in North Bergen, officials introduced an ordinance that would ban “mobile video billboards and audio sound trucks” from streets and highways within the township.

Citing a number of concerns, the resolution states that North Bergen is one of the most densely populated municipalities in the country, and is second only to San Francisco in hills per square mile.

“Narrow streets, steep slopes, and the high population density streets within the township are heavily trafficked and congested, and lined with parked cars,” the resolution reads. “Mobile video billboards and audio sound trucks are particularly distracting to vehicle drivers and pedestrians and pose a peculiar and exceptional danger to the public’s health, safety, and welfare.”

The resolution concludes that the ban leaves “ample other alternative channels of communication available for communicating both commercial and non-commercial speech.”

If passed, the resolution would impose fines of anywhere from $100 to $2,000 for each violation. The ordinance would also reserve the right for emergency vehicles to use mobile billboards.

A dangerous form of speech?

The resolution states that the ban is content-neutral in restrictions on free speech. According to officials, the ban would prevent distracted drivers from endangering others.

Mobile billboard advertising, with its bright video screens, can affect other drivers’ night vision. Though mobile advertising has become a big business nationally, these trucks have been banned in several municipalities.

Though the content of free speech is protected, several municipalities have successfully banned mobile billboard trucks based on the form of the speech. Content-neutral restrictions of speech, with a legitimate government interest, are subject to in-depth review, according to current law.

Out in force on Election Day 

A huge fleet of billboard trucks motored through the streets of North Bergen and West New York during the May 14 municipal election. They were deployed by the campaigns of North Bergen’s then-mayoral hopeful Larry Wainstein, and then-Mayor Felix Roque of West New York.

Since the election season, there haven’t been widespread complaints about the use of mobile billboard trucks in North Bergen being used for commercial or non-commercial purposes.

Affordable housing expansion gets the green light

North Bergen officials also adopted a redevelopment plan at the meeting, which had been introduced last month.

The North Bergen Housing Authority and developer North Bergen Renaissance Corp. will construct about 60 affordable housing units in a vacant area next to the Terrace Apartments, an NBHA affordable housing building reserved for seniors. The plan will address the need for more senior housing units.

The roughly three-acre site will have 80 parking spaces. The building is slated to be four stories, including one level for parking.

One-third of the units would be accessible to residents with disabilities, according to the plan.

For updates on this and more stories check hudsonreporter.com or follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mike Montemarano can be reached at mikem@hudsonreporter.com.