Town talks alternative revenue


Town officials are discussing advertising signage as a potential way to generate additional revenue outside of property taxes. For example, this Harrison High School sign is used to advertise school events and public service announcements. Photo/Phil Nobile

While communities everywhere continue to search for new revenue sources in what is still considered a slow economy, the Town of Harrison may have found one in digital signage.

On Thursday, Oct. 3, Richard Yaffa, chief executive officer and founder of Ray Media II, approached the Harrison Town Council about various options regarding an increasingly common alternate revenue stream in the advertising realm. Yaffa founded the marketing consultancy, which has both Manhattan and Harrison offices.

During his presentation, Yaffa cited examples of cities across the country utilizing advertisements. In Buffalo, Kentucky Fried Chicken promotes its products on the city’s fire hydrants.

Admitting he didn’t plan ads quite as excessive for Harrison, Yaffa, a life-long town resident, pointed to neighboring White Plains’ recent implementation of digital marketing through the usage of electronic signage at visible locations throughout the city. Yaffa estimated a potential of $150,000 in additional revenue to the town from signs during his presentation, but admitted that the number could vary based upon number and size of potential signage.

“All towns and cities are looking at alternate revenue sources, so I think it’s doable: To bridge the public-private gap,” Yaffa said. “Harrison is unique in its demographic appeal and number of major corporations. This isn’t for everybody, but the potential does exist here.”

According to Yaffa, the implementation and operation of the signs would come at no cost to the town, thanks to pre-selling to potential advertisers and solar powered signs. Most of the sign’s content would be public service announcements or community messages, much like the new Harrison High School sign, located in the front of the school on Union Avenue. The remaining content would include advertisements ranging from local to national campaigns. The  locations would likely be at the most traveled sections and boundaries of town.

Ultimate approval, however, lies with the Town Council, including sign location, content and other factors. Republican Councilwoman Marlene Amelio said that, she has been discussing alternate revenue options for months with Mayor Ron Belmont, a Republican. Then, they received a call from Yaffa leading to the proposal before town officials.

“It’s a very interesting and not entirely novel idea,” Amelio said. “We need something to be explored where there’s a consistent stream of revenue and is something worth our while.”

Described as being in an “exploratory stage” at this time, Councilwoman Amelio believes that having a discussion about alternate sources of revenue is not only the job of the Town Council, but ultimately can benefit the people of Harrison in a time when people are saturated with taxes.

“The last thing we want to do is raise taxes, so we need to be creative financially,” she said. “The previous administration’s idea was holding a flea market in the park. That’s not quite going to do it.”

But, not all residents shared the same enthusiasm as Yaffa and some members of the Town Council. Resident Frank Gordon spoke out against the idea of advertisements, despite the lack of monetary cost to the town.

“There is a cost,” Gordon said. “There is value for the town to not be bombarded with ads and commercial messages.”

Councilwoman Amelio said, “We would only move forward, if this can be done with the utmost in taste for the town/village. We are not looking to exploit or over-advertise, but we do have areas which can be a perfect opportunity for the town.”

Democratic mayoral candidate Joan Walsh also expressed concern and disapproval over the proposed revenue generator, citing past and potential projects to build business in downtown as a better way to gain revenue.

“We don’t need to be bombarded all over town with ads,” said Walsh, the town’s former mayor. “I think developing downtown will bring in more revenue than signs would.”

Walsh expressed disappointment with the Town Council for lack of any further development in the longtime proposed MTA  project to revitalize downtown Harrison with new apartment buildings and storefronts along Halstead Avenue.

“The revenue from the MTA project would bring in more than the estimated amount said during the presentation,” Walsh said. “If they moved ahead with the project, the town would have been better off than it is.”

The Town Council and Yaffa plan on holding more meetings over the upcoming months to iron out specifics  and propose further ideas and implementations.