By Joseph Wolkin
When they opened up their eyes, they saw the signs.
Port Jefferson Village residents were furious when a New York State agency added three highway-sized road signs on Route 25A, a state road, essentially in the middle of the night earlier in July. The signs were part of the I Love NY campaign from the Empire State Development office.
“They’re outrageously huge,” Mayor Margot Garant said. “They’re metal, they’re huge and they plopped them on the middle of our sidewalks without any notice.”
Garant, who was caught off guard by the road signs, immediately contacted the office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). After she had several meetings and phone calls with state officials, the community also spoke up. After an overwhelming volume of pleas heard by state officials, the signs were removed Saturday and, according to Garant, will be replaced with significantly smaller ones in the coming weeks.
According to the mayor, community members emailed the governor’s office and requested the signs be taken down. Additionally, a Twitter campaign was created in order to showcase the town’s fury over the signs. The three styles of large, blue signs featured the slogans “Welcome to New York,” “Explore New York History,” and “Experience New York Attractions,” with prompts to visit www.iloveny.com, a site geared toward tourists visiting the state.
“Apparently, the explanation I got was it was a [New York State] project that was on a deadline and I would probably think they wanted the deadline to be around the Fourth of July since it was right before it,” Garant said. “Because it was a heavy push with little explanation, as a result all of the communities [involved] went nuts. We had no input and weren’t given any notice. We just woke up one morning and there were these massive signs.”
Chyresse Wells, a spokeswoman for the Empire State Development office acknowledged their plan to replace the signs following the backlash.
“We are pleased to have reached an agreement with local leaders which addresses their concerns but continues to promote the world-renowned I Love NY campaign,” she said in an emailed statement. “New York State tourism has generated a record-breaking economic impact of $102 billion across the state, supporting over 894,000 jobs and generating $8 billion in state and local taxes in 2015.”
Village Trustee Bruce Miller received input on the issue from parents of parochial school students at Infant Jesus Roman Catholic Church regarding the poor and deteriorating quality of signs on lower Myrtle Avenue.
While Miller said road markings have been criticized, he did not know there would be several large signs placed on Route 25A. He added that little has been done to address the problem of deterioration of existing signs, an issue he said he has presented to the board of trustees in the past.
Bruce D’Abramo, another village trustee, tweeted his satisfaction to the removal of the signs in response to the news that Montauk was having its signs downsized as well.
“Port Jefferson Village rejoiced as our NY State signs came down as well,” D’Abramo said. Montauk, East Hampton and Port Jefferson were three of several Suffolk County communities saddled with the giant signs with alleged little notice.
Reporting contributed by Alex Petroski.