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A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that the city did not violate the First Amendment by limiting the number of billboards along its roadways and parks.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said the city's goals of reducing visual clutter, improving the overall aesthetic appearance of the city and regulating traffic safety were reasonable.

"The fact that the city has chosen to value some types of commercial speech over others does not make the regulation irrational," the appeals court said. It concluded that it did not matter that the city had enforced its regulations sporadically since 1940.

A lower court judge reached the same conclusion in the case last year. That ruling was appealed by companies, including Clear Channel Outdoor Inc. and Metro Fuel LLC, that market hundreds of billboards.

They said the city infringed on commercial speech rights by stiffening rules against big billboards and lighted signs near parks and highways while letting smaller signs flourish on lampposts, taxicabs and phone booths. A lawyer for the companies did not immediately return a phone message for comment.


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