Sign Lands Beacon Man in Court

City again says banner violates code

By Jeff Simms

For the second time in less than a year, a Beacon business owner has been summoned to court after clashing with the city over signs that it says require permits but that he calls protected political speech.

Last month, Jason Hughes hung an 8-by-34-foot vinyl banner that reads “Resist White Supremacy; Vote on November 6, 2018” on the Route 52 side of the warehouse at 4 Hanna Lane, where he runs LNJ Tech Services. He also co-owns Ella’s Bellas at 418 Main St. with his wife, Carley.

Jason Hughes with the banner he hung on the side of the warehouse he owns at 4 Hanna Lane (Photo by J. Simms)

In January city building officials ordered him to remove a banner that read “No Hate! No Fear! Everyone is welcome here,” from the same spot on the warehouse, where it had been on display intermittently for nearly a year. It was designed as a commentary on a resolution being considered by the City Council to declare Beacon a “sanctuary city” that would not cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

The “White Supremacy” banner, which went up about four weeks after “No Hate! No Fear!” came down, borrows language from the owners of Cox Farm in Northern Virginia, who earlier this year posted a “Resist White Supremacy” sign on their property that drew heated responses from local residents and on social media.

Last summer, Hughes and the city also butted heads over whether several paintings by Beacon artist Rick Rogers installed on the side of the Ella’s Bellas building were artwork or signage. One reads “Imagine all the people,” a reference to the John Lennon song. Hughes paid a $500 fine, but the paintings are still up.

The city on March 16 issued an order assessing a fine of $1,000 per day until the new warehouse banner is removed. On April 11, Hughes received a summons to be arraigned in criminal court on April 26.

In February 2017, Hughes hung a banner on his LNJ Tech Services warehouse in Beacon. He later moved it to the side of Ella’s Bella on Main Street. (File photo by J. Simms)

Like many municipal regulations, Beacon’s zoning code is subject to interpretation. It allows a “temporary sign” to be erected without a permit if it is used “in connection with a circumstance, situation or event” that takes place “within a reasonably short or definite period.” Hughes said that if the November election were ruled to be too distant to meet that criteria, he would rehang the sign closer to the vote.

Permanent signs whose messages periodically change are not considered temporary, nor are signs “effectively displayed on an ongoing basis,” according to the code. But it also says “political banners” are permitted temporarily.

Beacon officials last summer said these were signs at 418 Main St.; Jason Hughes calls them art. (Photo by J. Simms)

Hughes argues that prosecuting him as if the dated banner were meant to be permanent — the court summons charges that it was erected without a permit and exceeds size limits (an argument also made by the city against the earlier “No Hate” banner) — “prejudicially removes” his right to rehang the sign closer to the election.

He also said a building official told him “that this wasn’t his department leading the charge,” but rather “a couple of people in City Hall.”

Mayor Randy Casale says that’s not the case, that the city can’t issue a violation based on the sign’s content.

“When I get an email about something that people think is illegal, I forward it to the proper department” to check out, Casale said. “I don’t tell them what to do.”

Some residents have taken Hughes to task recently.

“I had family in this weekend and they were wondering what’s going on with Beacon? Is it filled with white supremacists?” Steve Zias said during the April 2 City Council meeting. He noted the sign was visible to children at Memorial Park and asked: “What does that say for the Beacon residents who are welcoming everyone coming into the city? It’s a shame.”

Hughes disagrees, calling the banner “an attempt to start a conversation” and a “general political statement” that doesn’t refer to Beacon or any individual. “What I’m saying is we need real progressives running for office. People need to educate themselves and learn who stands for what.”

Hughes says the feedback he’s received has been more positive than negative. As for children and visitors seeing the sign, he says, “naming a problem is never sufficient to solve it, but no problem has ever been solved without first being named.”

16 Responses to "Sign Lands Beacon Man in Court"

  1. Marlowe Stern
    Marlowe Stern   April 13, 2018 at 12:45 pm

    Surely the town has better things to do than to harass residents.

  2. Steve Sumski
    Steve Sumski   April 13, 2018 at 2:26 pm

    Oh well, no more Ella’s Bellas for me. That being said, he should have every right to hang his sign. The First Amendment was put into place to protect speech everyone might not agree with. It’s easy to protect speech we all agree with.

  3. Holly Bogdanffy-Kriegh
    Holly Bogdanffy-Kriegh   April 13, 2018 at 5:50 pm

    I’m sure that we can ALL agree that white supremacy is wrong, right? So what’s the big deal about declaring that and urging people to consider it as an issue when they go to vote in November? The Hudson Valley is not free of oppressive practices toward people of color. We all should be talking about it.

  4. Brandy Capolino
    Brandy Capolino   April 13, 2018 at 8:48 pm

    Glad I now know that he is affiliated with Ella’s Bellas. They will never see my business.

  5. Stacy Maldonado
    Stacy Maldonado   April 13, 2018 at 9:17 pm

    Good, it was a stupid sign in the first place. And if you’re going to hang a sign like that, stand behind it and be accountable.

  6. Marie Matzek
    Marie Matzek   April 13, 2018 at 9:52 pm

    People are still posting Trump signs around here and this is Beacon, so what’s the issue. Why can some do it and some not do it? Obviously the election is over and Trump is president. Why are they still allowed to continue to post their banners and their stickers and all of this from the election? It’s done. That doesn’t fit into the laws, as I just read them on this post. Why can some do things and some not do things?

    Same old story. Why doesn’t the law pertaining to everybody? That’s exactly what the sign is about that some are more important than others and some can do what others can’t do. I don’t pay much attention to the sign. But I certainly understand it just from seeing this post and what’s happening and some other things I see around and nothing’s been done.

  7. Erin Giunta
    Erin Giunta   April 13, 2018 at 10:04 pm

    I will happily continue to patronize Ella’s Bellas. Thank you, Jason, for speaking up against hate and bigotry. How anyone could be offended by this sign is beyond me. Either you resist white supremacy or you don’t.

    • Shelley A Gilbert
      Shelley A Gilbert   April 13, 2018 at 10:50 pm

      His message promotes democratic values. Bravo!

  8. Michelle Walker
    Michelle Walker   April 13, 2018 at 11:49 pm

    Good, thorough story.

  9. Kimberly Sevilla   April 14, 2018 at 2:57 pm

    As a mother of two, and the wife of an immigrant, I see nothing wrong with children seeing signs like this. It opens a dialogue and allows me to explain to my children that it is our right and duty to protect others. I really felt comfort when I saw that sign, that someone was willing to stand up to hate and racism and applaud his courage.

  10. Caroline Jensen   April 14, 2018 at 5:23 pm

    I have repeatedly emailed the city about vacant houses that are adjacent to my home and violate various regulations. The city should be going after the banks that own those properties or the absentee landlords.

    One example, a house across from me that is owned by a doctor in Cold Spring and has been vacant for the entire 10 years I have lived here, had a pile (like 6) dirty old mattresses piled up in the yard. The roof is about to collapse. Another property has two unregistered, rusting cars in the yard surrounded by standing water. One car has been sitting for so long, the tires are half disintegrated. Feral cats give birth underneath the cars and there are so many mosquitoes in the summer. When it’s very windy, asphalt shingles blow off of the roof and pieces of asbestos siding blow onto my yard (where my child *should* be able to play.

    I have repeatedly contacted the city. They say it’s complicated and they simply don’t have the resources or manpower.

    When I see them wasting my tax dollars over a banner that doesn’t negatively impact the environment or my child’s ability to play safely in her own yard. And the issue is vague/open to interpretation. It makes me absolutely irate.

  11. Ralph Pettorossi   April 14, 2018 at 7:22 pm

    This action by the city has nothing to do with freedom of speech. It’s about a sign that is out of compliance with the ordinance. Why doesn’t he just display a smaller sign at his place of business that’s in compliance with the code?

  12. Gordon Lyons   April 14, 2018 at 8:14 pm

    Why is he allowed to break the law just because he feels like it? The content is very misleading. People move in and think they can do they want to do.

  13. Tony Bardes   April 15, 2018 at 9:08 am

    The sign is in violation of building code, not the content. But on the content, why would he promote fear and division among the people of different races? How much racism is there in Beacon? Last I checked the Klan disbanded in the 1950s. Where are the white supremacists? This is just a excuse to attract attention to a problem that does not exist. This is just stupid and irresponsible and does nothing to solve a made-up problem, if it even existed.

  14. Bob Kacur   April 19, 2018 at 9:35 am

    Instead of promoting negativity, divisiveness and two banners with hypocritical content, why not hang signs with positive messages. Maybe “Strive to be Better” or “Promote Equality.” Antagonism doesn’t solve any problems.

  15. David Alexander   April 19, 2018 at 11:50 am

    Would it be illegal to hang a sign on the Monday before elections that says, “Democrats: Vote Tomorrow. Republicans: Vote the Day After Tomorrow”?