Standing next to a mammoth “I Love New York” tourism sign on the Wantagh Parkway, Hempstead Town Supervisor Anthony J. Santino called upon the Governor and the New York State Department of Transportation to remove the veritable cornucopia of huge, ugly tourism signs that have popped up on local parkways and the Long Island Expressway. Joined by Senior Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby, Councilman Gary Hudes, local residents and environmentalists, the officials labeled the signs ugly, pointless, distracting, as well as terming the billboards “visual pollution.”
“Neighbors across our town have called us to express outrage over New York State’s ugly, massive tourism billboards that now proliferate our local parkways,” stated Santino. “We share their outrage. The signs are totally pointless, having no clear message, while simply distracting motorists who should be concentrating on the roadway.”
Almost 150 of the signs have appeared on Long Island roadways since June of this year, including the Wantagh and Meadowbrook State Parkways in the Town of Hempstead. Generally, the signs are clustered, featuring one massive billboard along the roadway with four separate message icons. Drivers subsequently encounter four to five additional big signs that contain individual message icons. The message icons contain phrases such as “Taste NY,” “I Love NY,” “New York State Parks,” “Path Through History.” Neighbors have complained that the icon messages contain no discernible useful information. Specifically, the signs don’t direct drivers to any particular service, location or other destination.
“There is no clear benefit that the public derives from these billboards,” stated Goosby. “They do not direct drivers to any specific location or service. The whole thing completely lacks reason.”
The federal government has recently warned New York State that it may slash funding for New York’s highway and bridge projects if the signage is not removed. Federal officials have echoed the comments of town officials, indicating that they pose a dangerous distraction for motorists. In response, the state has claimed that the signs help promote tourism and provide important information about attractions.
“As an elected official and a past president of the Nassau Council of Chambers of Commerce, I can tell you that there is absolutely ‘zero’ tourism benefit that is realized by local businesses because of these signs,” stated Hudes. “They are a colossal waste of money and accomplish nothing.”
The signs, which reportedly have cost New York $1.76 million statewide, have been met with harsh criticism from community leaders, neighbors and environmentalists.
“There is enough visual pollution as it is,” said Cathy Powell, a member of the Long Island Planning Council and a steward of the “Garden of Hope” in Wantagh. “A big, blue sign doesn’t cut it. Perhaps an ‘app’ might be more useful.”
“I see no value in these signs,” stated Joseph Baker, President of the South Merrick Civic Association. “They are a distraction to drivers and provide no information to drivers.”
Santino, along with Goosby and Hudes are writing to New York State officials, expressing their displeasure with the signs and asking for the immediate removal of the “ugly billboards.”
“Our local parkways are tree lined, they are adjacent to residential neighborhoods and they generally complement the suburban character of our areas,” said Santino. “These humongous billboards constitute ‘visual pollution’, are totally out of harmony with our attractive parkways, offer absolutely no useful information and are a very dangerous distraction to motorists. Everyone is in agreement- we love New York, but we hate the signs- take them down now!”