New Yorker fined for hanging peace sign in window sues city

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 26, 2012 6:54 PM
New Yorker fined for hanging peace sign in window sues city

By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A woman who was forced to pay an $800 fine for nailing a peace sign to her window frame in violation of zoning regulations sued New York City in U.S. federal court on Friday, claiming the law infringed upon her right to free speech.

Brigitte Vosse, who owns a condominium on Manhattan's Upper West Side, received a ticket from the city's department of buildings for the peace symbol she hung in her living room window for a year and a half.

The city's zoning laws prohibit people from placing signs more than 40 feet above curb level in Vosse's zoning district, according to the lawsuit. But exceptions are made for signs that are placed on buildings whose uses are primarily "of a civic, philanthropic, educational or religious nature."

That demonstrates that the restriction is content-based in violation of the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech, the lawsuit claimed.

"The defendants simply cannot dictate what kind of signs or symbols are placed in the windows of residential homes," the lawsuit said.

Vosse, who placed the peace sign in her window to express her opposition to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, paid the fine but left the sign hanging in protest of the law, according to the lawsuit.

The suit seeks an injunction barring enforcement of the regulation, a judgment that the law is unconstitutional and damages for Vosse.

A spokeswoman for the city's law department said the city had not yet been served with the complaint late on Friday.

The case is Vosse v. The City of New York et al., U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, 12-cv-8004.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Will Dunham)