Editorial: Signs of trouble in Orient

When Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a $50 million “I Love NY” advertising campaign in June, the goal was to promote tourism and “attract visitors this summer to explore our state’s natural beauty, rich history and world-class recreational activities.”

Much to the chagrin of East End residents, a result of that campaign was on display this month in the form of “I Love NY” signs that were installed in Orient and Montauk. In both communities, the reaction from locals was swift, harsh and predictably overblown.

Orient Association president Robert Hanlon and Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell both described the four signs near Cross Sound Ferry on Route 25, a state road, as having no purpose. The blue signs, which read “Welcome to New York,” advertise the ILoveNY.com website and mobile app. Mr. Russell noted that they made no mention of specific destinations in Southold Town. However, the mobile app directs users to a number of pertinent destinations, including Laurel Lake Vineyards, Catapano Dairy Farm, South Jamesport Beach and Browder’s Birds. The app can actually be a handy tool for anyone exploring a region of New York, including the North Fork. It’s understandable the state would try to promote the app, which in turn promotes local businesses.

Politicians were surprisingly quick to react when word spread of the cold reception the signs had received from locals. State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) pushed to have all of them removed shortly after they popped up. Of course, politicians never seem to mind when roads are clogged with political signs in the months preceding an election.

Where the state ultimately went wrong was failing to consult local officials before installing the signs. It’s no shock that locals would oppose signs promoting tourism, so before wasting money to have them made, installed and ultimately removed, the state could have outlined its plan first and then received feedback. Perhaps the signs could have been altered to better appease locals.

Orient’s largest remaining sign is now expected to be replaced by a smaller one. That should alleviate, to some degree, Mr. Russell’s concern that it “restricts the view of a publicly held preserve.”

In reality, the view is simply a line of trees and shrubbery.

When a smaller version is in place, drivers will perhaps focus on other signs located along that brief stretch of roadway, such as the ones about L.I. Wine Country, Rotary, travel information, various traffic indicators and a sign marking the entrance to a park.