‘I Love NY’ signs not loved Feds, funding threatened

The U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration do not love the hundreds of ‘I Love NY’ tourism signs that have been placed on New York state highways over the past five years, including some that were recently installed in the Bronx, and wants them removed.

The state has put up over 500 of the large blue signs on highways across the state. at a cost of almost $17 million.

The signs include the iconic “I Love New York” logo, along with icons that promote the ‘Path Toward History’ tourism program, the ‘Taste NY’ program that promotes state food and drink offerings and one for the state parks.

The primary sign is followed in quick succession by four smaller signs.

The signs encourage travellers to visit the state tourism website, iloveny.com, and the state tourism app.

There are 16 such signs in Bronx County, which can be seen on the Bronx River Parkway and Hutchinson River Parkway.

Governor Cuomo has been a vocal cheerleader for state tourism, which he has cited as a major economic engine for the Empire State.

“Tourism is a major driver of New York’s economy and these signs are part of a multi-pronged effort that has helped increase tourism across this state,” said Adam Ostrowski, spokesman for the Empire State Development Corporation.

“Last year, the tourism industry generated a record-breaking economic impact of $102 billion statewide while supporting more than 894,000 jobs and contributing $8 billion in state and local taxes.”

But federal DOT officials never approved the signs, and warned the state in 2011 as the program was ramping up, to stop installing them.

The feds are now threatening to withhold up to $1 billion in federal funding unless the signs are removed.

The sign’s lettering is too small and hard to read for a highway motorist and could distract drivers, the federal agency charges.

“We have continued to let state DOT know that these signs are not in compliance,” said Federal Highway Administration spokesman Neil Gaffney. “A particular area of concern for us is the fact that we are committed to reducing situations where distracted driving can occur, and these signs can distract drivers. We are working to bring the state into compliance.”

Adding to the awkwardness is the fact that the signs were made outside the state in an Arkansas factory because the state did not have the necessary equipment to make them, according to published reports verified by the state DOT.

State DOT spokesman Gary Holmes said a meeting with the federal DOT and highway department had been scheduled this month in Washington where he hoped the sign disagreements could be worked out.

“This issue has been discussed for years and involves the interpretation of rules for directional signage versus informational signage, and whether or not an email address can be posted.,” said Holmes. “This isn’t high crime, but minor disagreements that ‎we look forward to meeting with the feds in order to resolve.

“The ‘I Love NY’ tourism program is highly successful and a big economic driver,‎” h said.

Reach Reporter Arthur Cusano at (718) 260-4591. E-mail him at acusano@cnglocal.com.Follow him on Twitter @arthurcusano.

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