How a Jerry Seinfeld Op-Ed become a 6-story billboard on the Higher East Facet
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld's much debated article on the New York Times, which refutes those who think New York is "dead," continues to be noticed months after its publication – not because of social media sharing, but because it is on the facade Showing 19-story luxury condominium building under construction on Manhattan's Upper East Side.
The banner, which was installed in mid-November, is made of scaffolding and is 55 feet wide, 55 feet high and six stories high. It shows a black and white photo of a rather grumpy-looking Seinfeld glinting against a wall of bookcases. The banner headline, which is prominently displayed on a building called Benson, says, “Jerry Seinfeld: So you think New York is“ dead, ”followed by“ (It is not) ”in smaller font.
"The true greatness of New York City is more than rare," said a quote from his statement. "It's unknown. Unknown location outside of New York City."
The billboard was not advertised directly, but was created by the developer to spread a message of solidarity for the city. It has received a lot of attention, often positively but occasionally negatively, both because of its real-world visibility and the way it was shared online.
Miki Naftali, chairman and managing director of Naftali Group, developer of the Benson, said the concept for the banner was created during a brainstorming session with his company's marketing and design manager, his daughter Danielle. She contacted Seinfeld's representative. The comedian approved the use of his op-ed material – including the photo it was featured in – but said the newspaper would have to unsubscribe as well. The Times gave Naftali permission to reproduce the photo, headlines, quotes and logo through April 30, 2021.
This isn't the first time Naftali has been creatively promoting buildings under construction during the year-end holiday season. In 2015, he hired James Gulliver Hancock for a project on the Upper West Side to create a banner with cartoons of residents of apartments that will then be built:
Naftali said the Seinfeld banner was not intended to advertise the Benson, which will feature 15 three to seven bedroom condos in the $ 12.8 to $ 35 million price range.
"I just wanted to do something to help," he said. "It's been a very difficult, unique year. I decided," Let's do something like (the banner). "It got a lot of attention, more than I expected."
Naftali agreed with Seinfeld's views on the permanence of New York, saying, "All the big cities in the world are suffering, but I'm not buying the idea that city life is dead."
Others agreed, including several celebrities commenting on an Instagram post with the banner of Seinfeld's wife Jessica. he has reposted her post. Responses to Jessica Seinfeld's post included writers, journalists, celebrity Nicky Hilton, and actors like Julianne Moore and Natasha Lyonne.
One critic of the banner is Edgar Ballestras, a New York-based photographer from Queens. He commented on Jessica Seinfeld's post on Instagram: “This is totally disgusting. As a native Queer who lost his mother to COVID-19 in April, I don't care what Jerry thinks. He could write his comments, but we don't need this nonsense. For thousands of New Yorkers who have lost a loved one, the last thing they want to see is Jerry's face taped onto a building. What annoys me the most is his last line: "See you at the club." Who gives a shit, we're trying to stay safe. "