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Controversial ‘I Love NY’ tourism signs to be replaced, state says

One of the New York State tourism signs,

One of the New York State tourism signs, seen here on the Meadowbrook Parkway in Freeport. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The controversial “I Love NY” tourism signs that federal officials said were illegally put up on roadways on Long Island and statewide are coming down, the state Department of Transportation said Friday.

The 514 road signs that started springing up in June 2016 as part of a state campaign touting local attractions, will be replaced with different signage as part of a new tourism effort — if the federal government approves, the DOT said.

Plans call for the “I Love NY” signs to be removed by this summer.

According to Federal Highway Administration officials, the blue-and-white signs currently in place are unsafe and were erected in violation of state and federal laws that require roadway markers to give navigational assistance to motorists and prohibit them being used as ads.

On Thursday, FHWA Acting Administrator Brandye Hendrickson sent a letter to DOT Acting Commissioner Paul A. Karas and New York State Thruway Authority Acting Executive Director Matthew J. Driscoll, notifying them that the federal government would be withholding an estimated $14 million from the nearly $1 billion it provides New York each year for use on such projects as bridge and highway improvements.

Hendrickson said the $14 million could be reinstated if the state is “in compliance” by Sept. 30.

In 2013, the FHWA denied the state’s request to erect the tourism signs, but the signs were put up anyway. On Long Island, they can be found on such roadways as the Long Island Expressway and Meadowbrook Parkway.

State officials have defended the signs and insisted they are not illegal.

On Friday, one day after receiving the letter, Karas and Driscoll issued a statement announcing that “I Love NY” will be replaced by a new campaign called “NY has it all!” to be launched in the summer. They said plans for the campaign include new signs that must be approved by the FHWA.

A DOT spokesman who asked not to be identified insisted removal of the old signs was not being done in response to the withdrawal of the $14 million.

Karas and Driscoll said the old campaign was “overwhelmingly successful” but after five years has “run its useful course.”

FHWA spokesman Doug Hecox said late Friday he was not aware of the state’s plan for a new tourism campaign with revamped signage.

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