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Say no to commercial advertising kiosks on Philadelphia’s sidewalks

By Brendan McDevitt, intern

The sidewalks of Philadelphia may soon be marred with the addition of hulking advertising kiosks if an advertising company’s proposal is approved by city officials. The Philadelphia Art Commission has given conceptual approval for the kiosks, and it is important that they hear from the public before they give final approval for the kiosks.  Click here to let city officials know you don’t want these kiosks on our city’s sidewalks.

NYC sidewalk kiosks
Sidewalk kiosks in New York City have become hubs for loitering and illicit activities.

Rising out of the ground like unsightly pillars, similar kiosks have already caused a stir in New York City, where they were installed in January of 2016. Kiosk operators tout supposed public benefits of the structures, including free public WiFi, phone charging stations, and a built-in-tablet that can used to browse the internet, but the majority of the structure is composed of LED screens that flash distracting advertisements to both pedestrians and drivers. Aside from the kiosks being detrimental to the unique and authentic appearance of Philadelphia, there are several issues that have emerged with these kiosks in New York City that will surely arise in Philadelphia if they are approved by the Art Commission.

New York City officials began receiving complaints about the kiosks shortly after their installation.  The kiosks quickly became gathering places for people looking to make use the free Wifi, internet access and phone charging ports.  Small encampments began to grow around the kiosks, with people dragging newspaper vending boxes, discarded furniture and other objects to the kiosks to act as impromptu furniture from which to use the kiosks for hours at a time.  City officials in New York like Bronx Borough President Rubèn Dìaz have raised concerns about these people creating personal spaces for themselves by the kiosks where drugs and alcohol are consumed publicly.

Such uses of the kiosks are creating major public nuisances for city residents like Judith Barnes, a resident of the Cobble Hill neighborhood in Brooklyn, who told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle that a “massive” kiosk was installed just a few feet from her front window. She described the new kiosks as an eyesore in her neighborhood that creates light and noise pollution issues for she and her neighbors. Ms. Barnes is also worried about people attracted to the kiosk congregating on the sidewalk in front of her home, and of the potential for personal privacy invasion since the kiosks have built in cameras.  New York City government provided no opportunity to be a part of the decision-making process about these kiosks before installing them in neighborhoods, a move that is being mirrored by the Philadelphia officials.

Intersection, the advertising firm behind the kiosks in New York and potential kiosks in Philadelphia, is preparing a mock kiosk for the Philadelphia Art Commission. If they receive the Art Commission’s approval for the kiosks then Philadelphia will soon be oversaturated with distracting and unsightly advertisements on almost every city block in Center City, not to mention the public nuisance risks posed by the kiosks.  It is important that you contact the Art Commission today to let them know you disapprove of this proposal for commercial advertising kiosks on Philadelphia’s city streets.