An upstate New York assemblyman has fired off a letter to the state DOT expressing his “concern” that more than 150 of the controversial “I Love New York” tourism signs that have sprung up on state highways and local streets since June were made in Arkansas.
Anthony Brindisi, of Utica, wrote to Department of Transportation Commissioner Matthew Driscoll on Nov. 22 and called for the DOT to ensure that New York companies are given priority for future contracts.
DOT spokesman Gary Holmes said Wednesday that the $1.76 million sign project was open to all businesses and that 10 companies — all based in New York — were awarded contracts based on where across the state the 514 billboards would be installed.
On Long Island, the contract was awarded to Constar Inc. of Central Islip. Constar contracted the printing of the signs to an Arkansas business, Interstate Sign Ways.
A Constar representative could not immediately be reached for comment.
“At a time when the upstate New York economy is still struggling, many New York workers are not feeling the love with the news that a series of ‘I Love NY’ highway signs were printed in Arkansas,” Brindisi said Tuesday in a news release.
Holmes acknowledged that Constar used a subcontractor, noting that Constar is a construction company that installs signs but cannot make them.
Holmes said that most of the contractors are installation companies that used subcontractors for the fabrication work. He added that the Arkansas company did “about a third” of the 514 signs and that some billboards were made by the New York State Thruway Authority.
“As with any job, contractors are permitted to use subcontractors as long as they meet contract and procurement guidelines,” Holmes said.
Brindisi noted some sign printing was done by Hermosa Corp. in New York Mills, which is in his district, and by Elderlee Inc. of Ontario County, but he said there are enough New York businesses qualified to do the entire job.
“I find it ironic that a company from Arkansas was paid to work on a project helping to promote New York State products,” Brindisi said. “Perhaps it is time to look at the DOT’s contract guidelines, because the push to provide more work for New York companies should start with the state of New York.”
The signs have been controversial on Long Island since 144 of them started springing up in June along the Long Island Expressway, the Meadowbrook and Northern State parkways, Jones Beach, Long Island MacArthur Airport and on local streets.
In Montauk, Orient and Port Jefferson, complaints over the look and large dimensions of some of the signs led to the removal of some. Officials with the Town of Hempstead will hold a news conference Friday morning near the Wantagh Parkway to call for the state to remove more of the billboards.
Federal Highway Administration officials have also said the signs violate federal law requiring highway signs to provide directional and other information that helps motorists navigate the roads. They have threatened to cut some of the $1 billion in federal funds the state receives annually for bridge and highway projects if the signs are not removed.