It’s hard to blame Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for his excited advocacy of New York and its products, but he really should have reined it in with the “I Love NY” signs. That’s particularly clear now that the federal government is forcing Cuomo to take down the 514 nearly useless eyesores, which cost about $15,700 apiece.
The Federal Highway Administration, which regulates highway signs and requires prior approval of designs, let its disapproval of these wordy signs be known in 2011 before they were even made, saying they contained way too much information. The agency complained more when some were erected in 2013, and got really angry when even more were placed in 2016.
The federal officials were right. One of the signs included 11 separate “informative” nuggets about New York’s products, attractions and websites to distract drivers hurtling along at top speeds. And on certain roads, like the Meadowbrook Parkway, they seem to pop up with brutal regularity.
For years, the state said the signs cost a total of $1.76 million, but that number soared to $8.1 million with installation costs. Cuomo was adamant about not taking them down. But last week, the day after the highway agency said it would hold back $14 million in federal funds for roads, the state agreed to remove them, but would not admit the decision was related to the denial of funds. The final coda to this silly episode was state and local Republicans staging photo-ops in front of the signs, revealing their own bankruptcy of policy ideas.
The state says the “I Love NY” signs simply have run their course. Coming this summer is a new campaign: “NY has it all!”
Hopefully, the Federal Highway Administration, which says it has heard nothing about Cuomo’s new signs, will think they have it all, too — and not too much of all of it.