Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Say Pepsi, Please

This week is your chance to speak up in support of the proposed designation of the historic Pepsi Sign in Long Island City as an official New York City Landmark.  New York's Landmarks Preservation Commission will convene on Thursday, October 8 to decide whether or not to protect the Pepsi Sign, which has been calendared for a hearing since 1988.  Built by the prolific sign makers Artkraft Strauss c.1936, Pepsi is now among the very last of many similar signs that once characterized the New York waterfront for most of the 20th century.

Pepsi-Cola, a landmark in all ways but one.  (T. Rinaldi)

To date, not a single historic sign in New York has been granted Landmark status in its own right, though other cities from Boston to Los Angeles have protected signs of similar scale.  For want of Landmark status, Brooklyn's iconic Kentile Floors and Eagle Clothes signs vanished in recent years.  You can voice your support for the Pepsi Sign by sending a short e-mail to Commissioner Meenakshi Srinivasan at:


You can read the text of my letter to Commissioner Srinivasan below.  Stay tuned for word on the Commission's decision.

Dear Commissioner Srinivasan:

I write to support the proposed designation of the historic Pepsi-Cola sign in Long Island City as a protected New York City Landmark.  In researching my book New York Neon (W.W. Norton, 2012), I found that enormous illuminated spectaculars such as the Pepsi Sign were once character-defining features of the New York City waterfront.   Today, it is one of the very last surviving examples of similar structures that once beamed out across the harbor from all five boroughs and New Jersey. 

For want of designated status, similar signs (Kentile Floors and Eagle Clothes, to name two) have vanished from the skyline in recent years, much to the regret of New Yorkers for whom these unique structures had stood as familiar beacons for generations.  While cultural heritage agencies in cities from Boston to Los Angeles have acted to protect historic signs like these, New York has yet to designate any such sign as a Landmark in its own right. 

Though un-designated, the Pepsi Sign has demonstrated its unique appeal as a cultural landmark in unusual ways.  It has been replicated at Citi Field, has outlived the building upon which it once stood, and has been installed as the focal point of a new public park.  Many New Yorkers, I have found, wrongly assume it has already been Landmarked.  In fact, of course, it remains unprotected, leaving it vulnerable to vanishing as Kentile, Eagle and so many other signs have vanished through the years. 

I hope you will agree that losing the Pepsi Sign would be a regrettable blow to our city’s cultural landscape.  Please act to extend protected status to a structure that today stands as a landmark in every sense but one.   


Thomas E. Rinaldi

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