New York State highway crews will remove the remaining ‘I ♥ NY’ signs throughout the state in the face of losing a reported $14 million in federal funding.
The ones in Orient were removed in July 2016, shortly after they first went up, after an outcry from state and local officials. One, smaller one, remains in Riverhead on the Long Island Expressway.
The one in Riverhead, along with more than 500 other blue and white signs that are part of the “I Love NY” tourism campaign, will come down throughout the state.
The Federal Highway Administration has said the the signs were unsafe, even distracting to drivers, and were put up without permission. The State Department of Transportation has until Sept. 30 to remove them or come up with a plan to do so or lose out on $14 million, plus further fines.
The state spent $8.1 million on the signs — not the $1.8 million that was initially reported. There were 144 signs on Long Island, including in Montauk and at Jones Beach.
In a statement, Paul A. Karas, the acting commissioner of the state Department of Transportation, and Matthew J. Driscoll, acting executive director of the New York State Thruway Authority, touted the campaign and said it has enhanced the state’s $105 billion tourism industry.
“Since the Governor initiated this branding effort, the number of tourists to New York State has increased by 18 percent and the direct economic impact of tourism on the State has skyrocketed by more than 20 percent,” they said.
“From Greater Niagara to Long Island, ‘I Love NY’ signs have helped get motorists off the roads and into mom-and-pop restaurants, shops, and historic destinations. This increased traffic has in turn boosted local economies that aren’t typical tourist attractions,” they said.
The campaign “has run its useful course” and the state is gearing up to launch a new campaign in time for the summer called “‘NY has it all!’” Road signage is included in the promotions, but signs will be redesigned, they said.
In a statement, the Federal Highway Administration said, “We look forward to working with NYSDOT to ensure New York’s signage complies with safety standards required to qualify for federal funding.”
The state erected four ‘I ♥ NY’ signs in June of 2016 on Route 25 near Cross Sound Ferry in Orient, with the largest sign roughly 12 feet wide by eight feet tall. Similar signs were posted in Montauk.
The signs went up without warning or communication to local officials.
While they were placed along state roads, many said the roads have a more rural feel and were out of character on the East End.
At the urging of local officials and state officials, including Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), they were removed in July of 2016. Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell described the signs as “pointless.”
Photo: An ‘I Love NY’ sign on the Long Island Expressway, just before Riverhead. (Credit: Krysten Massa)