Attack of the Giant Billboards

'I Love New York'? Not in Montauk. 'One of the stupidest things I've ever seen,' said the town supervisor
On Thursday, just before the Fourth of July weekend, state crews erected a sign on West Lake Drive that local officials knew nothing about and want taken down immediately. Christine Sampson

Huge blue billboards promoting New York State's I Love New York campaign popped up Thursday on West Lake Drive in Montauk, prompting backlash from residents and elected officials alike.

The signs are apparently the work of the New York State Department of Transportation, under direction from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, as part of the Empire State Development Corporation's signature tourism campaign. They were installed on county roadways without the knowledge of local officials.

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell and New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. on Friday called for the immediate removal of the signs.

"First of all, what a boneheaded idea to put throughway style-and-size signs in the hamlet of Montauk," Mr. Cantwell said by phone. "Two, they didn't ask anybody whether it's a good idea or ask anybody's permission."

"They have to come down," he said. "If the state won't take them down, then we may have to do it ourselves. But they paid to put them up, so they should pay to take them down."

"I think there was a total lack of communication, whether from the governor's office or the state D.O.T.," Mr. Thiele said. "They didn't communicate with anybody else. And the irony of these signs is, the very thing we are promoting on the East End is community character — the aesthetics, the beauty of the region. . . . These signs do nothing but destroy the beauty, so it's counterproductive. In my opinion, they made a mistake, so I hope they correct that mistake."

Mr. Cantwell, who said Suffolk County also knew nothing about the signs before they were erected, counted two large ones and at least six smaller ones in the vicinity of West Lake Drive and Flamingo Avenue. He called them "a total waste of resources" and "one of the stupidest things I've ever seen."

Not long after the signs appeared, residents began sharing similar sentiments on social media.

Governor Cuomo's press office directed a request for comment about the signs to the Empire State Development Corporation. “The goal of the I Love NY road signs are to promote the state's world-renowned tourism attractions and to continue to invest in the success of every region," an Empire State Development spokesperson said. "Tourism generated an economic impact of more than $100 billion across the state, supporting over 870,000 jobs and generating nearly $8 billion in state and local taxes in 2014. E.S.D. will work with state and local officials to ensure any concerns they have are addressed.”