This is an action challenging defendant City of Clifton's right to require the removal of all coin-operated news vending machines, known as honor boxes, located on sidewalks and areas between sidewalks and curbs in Clifton. Plaintiffs and intervenor are the owners of these coin-operated newspaper vending machines. Plaintiffs, who are the publishers of the Star Ledger, The Herald News, and The Morning News, together with other publishers of The New York Times, New York Post, New York Daily News, and USA Today maintain these honor boxes in various locations and zones in Clifton.
At a regular meeting of the Clifton Municipal Council held on June 19, 1984, following an affirmative vote by a majority of the council, the city manager was directed to impound all honor boxes located on city rights-of-way and to advise the owner to pick up the racks. By letter dated June 22, 1984, the Clifton Chief of Police directed all the newspaper publishers to remove various newsracks owned by them which were "in violation of N.J.S.A. 27:5-1 and Sections 16-16, 21-43 and 21-19 of the Revised Ordinances of the City of Clifton." The letter further advised that:
The statute and ordinances allegedly violated are as follows:
N.J.S.A. 27:5-1. Advertising on highways and private property prohibited; penalty.
Whoever shall paint or place upon, or in any manner affix to, a fence, structure, pole, rock, tree or other object which is the property of another, whether within or without the limits of a public highway, or maintain thereon any words, device, trademark, advertisement or notice not required by law to be posted thereon, without first obtaining the consent in writing of the owner or tenant of the property, or of the body having control of the highway if placed on a highway, shall, upon complaint of the owner or tenant, or of any police officer or other person, be liable to a penalty of twenty-five dollars ($25.00) upon conviction in the municipal court of the municipality wherein the violation
occurred. If consent is obtained that fact shall be stated on the advertisement or notice.
16-16. Posting notices prohibited.
No person shall post or affix any notice, poster or other paper or device, calculated to attract the attention of the public, to any lamp post, public utility pole, shade tree, or upon any public structure or building, except as may be authorized or required by law.
21-43. Posting prohibited.
It shall be unlawful for any person to post, attach or permit or suffer to be posted or attached in any way or manner, any campaign literature, pictures or other writings to any tree, pole, post, trestle, traffic sign, traffic signal, wall, fence, building or other structure in the city. Nothing contained in this section shall be construed to prohibit the posting or attaching of said literature, ...