Millions on the line over ‘I Love NY’ signs
Albany, N.Y. – The big, blue “I Love NY” signs lined up in groups of five along New York state highways and roads are hard to miss. And that, say federal transportation officials, is the problem.
The 500-plus tourism signs the state has installed from Long Island to Buffalo are at the center of a years-long standoff between the Federal Highway Administration and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The agency says the signs don’t meet regulations and pose a potential distraction to drivers traveling at high speeds, and it has demanded that the state remove them by Sept. 30 or lose $14 million in federal highway funding. New York’s transportation department, however, has said the signs don’t pose a safety risk and there’s no evidence they’ve directly contributed to any accidents.
Despite Cuomo’s assurances that the tourism campaign had run its course and the signs would be dismantled by the start of the summer vacation season, no signs have been removed. And the ongoing saga has provided plenty of fuel for the governor’s critics.
“If the governor had put his ego aside, adhered to federal highway rules and found some way to compromise before he disregarded the law, we could have avoided this embarrassing debacle,” said state Assemblyman Joseph Errigo, a Republican from western New York.
Marc Molinaro, the GOP candidate trying to prevent Cuomo from winning a third term in November, called him “Albany’s self-appointed fashionista.” New York newspaper editorial pages have also blasted the signs.
While the “I Love NY” logo (with “Love” depicted as a heart symbol) has been around for decades, Cuomo launched the initiative to put it on highway signs in 2013 as part of a campaign to boost the state’s $100 billion tourism industry.
After the first signs were installed, the program was expanded in 2016. Even before then, however, the Federal Highway Administration had told the state the signs didn’t comply with federal standards because they’re too big (sizes range from 6 feet-by-8 feet to as large as 10 feet-by-15 feet), contain too much information and don’t provide any navigational information.
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