Atheist billboard rises in Greenpoint amid controversy

Atheist billboard rises in Greenpoint amid controversy
Photo by Bryan Bruchman

Atheists can have faith again.

A billboard calling Judaism a myth went up in Greenpoint on Wednesday, after a Williamsburg landlord thwarted attempts to install the ad near the neighborhood’s Hasidic community.

The advertising company Clear Channel and the national non-believing group American Atheists picked a new spot for the billboard facing Brooklyn-bound drivers crossing the Kosciuszko Bridge at the corner of Stewart Avenue and Thomas Street — about two miles north of the S. Fifth Street roof where building owner Kenny Stier prevented them from installing the bilingual sign on Tuesday morning.

The new location wasn’t the one that American Atheists director David Silverman really wanted, but he described the new location as “great.”

“I still feel bad because of the Jews,” said Silverman, who wanted the billboard near Williamsburg’s Orthodox quarter in hopes of reaching atheists “trapped” within the strict religious community.

Silverman blames the neighborhood’s spiritual leaders for blocking the ad.

“It was drilled into me as a child that the Jewish people were persecuted and here we are facing religious bigotry from a Jew,” he said.

Influential Williamsburg Rabbi David Niederman blasted the sign’s proposed placement in the Southside as “inappropriate” earlier this week, but denied any direct involvement in efforts to keep the billboard out of the neighborhood.

Niederman, who runs the social services group United Jewish Organizations, could not be reached for comment on Thursday because of Purim.

At its new location, the ad could win converts among the nearly 160,000 drivers who take the bridge between Brooklyn and Queens daily.

A Clear Channel spokesman said the client is happy and the billboard has been inspected for safety in the wake of a freak, act of god accident that toppled another sign in January on the Brooklyn–Queens expressway at Meeker Avenue.

Reach reporter Aaron Short at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-2547.