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State halts installing more ‘I Love NY’ signs as it works with feds

One of the controversial blue New York State

One of the controversial blue New York State tourism campaign signs is seen on the Meadowbrook State Parkway on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016. Credit: Howard Schnapp

A plan for taking down the controversial blue and white “I Love New York” tourism campaign signs — signs that have allegedly been illegally erected on roadways throughout Long Island and present a distraction for drivers — is expected to be presented “within the next few months,” a spokesman for the Federal Highway Administration said.

Meanwhile, state officials have agreed not to install more signs.

“We have agreed that no more will go up while we’re in discussions,” state Department of Transportation spokeswoman Tiffany Portzer said in an interview Monday.

In an emailed statement sent Friday, Portzer said the state DOT “continues to engage in active dialogue” with the federal agency. “We are looking forward to resolving any outstanding issues in the near future,” she said.

Doug Hecox, a spokesman for the Federal Highway Administration, said there is an informal “moratorium” on new signs.

“A moratorium on putting up new signs is in place, so the state has agreed to not post any new signs, and we have discussed with them removing the existing signs,” Hecox said.

The signs, which promote New York tourist spots and websites as part of a campaign backed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, have been criticized as being “pointless,” “ugly” and “too big” by area residents and officials. Federal Highway Administration representatives say the signs are a safety hazard and should not have been put up because the state’s request to erect them had been denied.

Highway officials, who have threatened to reduce the approximately $1 billion in annual aid to the state for bridge and highway projects if the signs do not come down, say federal law requires that highway signs provide only navigational instructions for drivers. But, they add, the tourism signs are advertisements that contain so much information they are distracting to motorists.

The signs started going up last June but soon afterward some were taken down by the state in such communities as Montauk, Orient and Port Jefferson after complaints. The public outcry led to a December face-to-face meeting between Federal Highway Administrator Gregory Nadeau and DOT Commissioner Matt Driscoll when it was decided representatives from both agencies would continue to work on a solution.

The group consists of staff from the federal agency’s headquarters in Washington, its New York Division office in Albany and the state DOT, Hecox said in an emailed statement Monday. “Their work is moving along productively and we anticipate solutions to most if not all of the issues... within the next few months.”

There were 514 signs made at a total cost of $1.76 million. About 150 signs have been put up on local streets in Montauk, Port Jefferson and Orient as well as on the Long Island Expressway, the Meadowbrook, Northern State and Wantagh parkways, and at Long Island MacArthur Airport.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated potential cuts by the federal government in aid to the state. Highway officials have threatened to reduce the approximately $1 billion in annual aid to the state for bridge and highway projects if the signs do not come down.

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