In the race to remove Andrew Cuomo’s name from New York signs
ALBANY – Soon after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo first announced his plans to step down, panel makers got to work.
They didn’t have much time.
Cuomo’s name has graced hundreds of signs and monuments across New York City during his decade and more as governor – outside the Capitol, near state office buildings, on some highways and at the entrance to dozens of parks and other state-owned properties.
The Aug. 10 announcement by the former governor that he would resign two weeks later not only sparked a two-week transition that saw Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul quickly prepare to take over the top leadership. executive function of the state.
He also launched a rush for new signs, stickers and magnets to literally erase the name of New York’s 56th governor and replace it with the 57th, marking the first time a woman’s name has graced state property. .
Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request, USA TODAY Network New York obtained emails, invoices and design documents that highlighted the rush from the Office of State Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to clear Cuomo’s name from signage in time for Hochul’s dedication on August 24. .
Among the handful of state agencies facing the problem, state parks seemed to operate most efficiently: by the time Hochul took the oath of office, his name was plastered on signs at the entrance to some of the state’s crown jewels, including Jones. Watkins Glen Beach and State Park.
Here’s what we learned about how the panel changes were made, according to official documents:
Cuomo’s sign change to Hochul started with an email
Cuomo was notoriously opposed to email, refusing even to create an official state account for himself during his tenure.
So perhaps it was fitting that the effort to clear his name from state park signage began with an email three days after his resignation plan was announced.
“Good afternoon everyone,” began the August 13 email from Marc Tallutto, deputy commissioner of state parks operations.
“As discussed at the (regional directors’) meeting; we should start preparing to change the park / site governor recognition signs, in anticipation of the governor-designate being sworn in and his ascension to governor. “
Cuomo’s resignation schedule didn’t leave much leeway; Hochul was to be sworn in 11 days after Talluto’s email came out.
Talluto has asked the 11 regional park directors to review any signage on their properties with Cuomo’s name and take action to replace it with Hochul’s name by August 24, the day she was due to be sworn in.
There was also the issue of what name Hochul preferred on the signage itself. Cuomo, for example, preferred Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, with the initial of his middle name.
“To that end, we have confirmed to the (Executive) House that the preferred list should be: Governor Kathy Hochul,” Talluto wrote.
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New signs, stickers and more
Counting the dozens of signs with Cuomo’s name on it was the easiest part.
The hardest part? Find out how to exchange his name. It was far from a unique job.
In the Hudson Valley, many parks had smaller, reddish-brown signs near parking lots for parks such as Bear Mountain, Tallman Mountain, and Fort Montgomery State Historic Site.
These were easy. The park workers just printed a sticker or a magnet, matching the color as best they could, and voila: “Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor” suddenly became Kathy Hochul, Governor.
The other signs weren’t that simple.
At Niagara Falls State Park, the state’s busiest park, the state had to look to the Cooper Sign Company to print two large aluminum inserts to match the signs in two key locations.
One insert measured 15 inches by 180 inches; the other 12 inches by 102 inches. Both had “Governor Kathy C. Hochul” printed on them in 3 inch letters and were painted green to match the existing sign.
Total cost for both Niagara Falls inserts? $ 1,851.25, based on one invoice. They were installed the day Hochul took office.
The biggest job, however, came to Long Island.
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Jones Beach signs cost more than others
No state park has signage like Jones Beach, the huge mega-popular park / beach along the south shore of Long Island.
Three major landmarks can be found along the main roads entering and along Jones Beach – one on the Meadowbrook State Parkway, one on the Ocean Parkway, and the third on the Wantagh State Parkway.
Each of these large stone signs has art deco style lettering indicating the name of the beach and, below, the governor.
Changing Cuomo’s name to Hochul didn’t come cheap.
The name replacement on the Ocean Parkway sign cost $ 10,643, according to an invoice from National Sign & Lighting Inc., an outside contractor.
The Wantagh sign? This one cost $ 12,950, according to the invoice. And the Meadowbrook sign swap cost $ 11,806, although State Parks spokesman Brian Nearing said that included repairs for damage from a car crash in April.
“The signage of walkways in some flagship parks, such as Jones Beach, is an important feature that requires specialized replacement components that cannot be supplied routinely by or by existing state park inventory and staff,” Nearing said in a statement.
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What was the total cost?
It is difficult to determine the full cost of exchanging Cuomo’s name for Hochul on the park’s signage.
The USA TODAY Network of New York City filed a Freedom of Information Act request for all documentation relating to costs, including materials and labor, associated with the change.
But efforts to modify the signs included internal state park sign stores and contracts with outside contractors.
In total, the state paid at least nine outside contractors for a total of nearly $ 48,000 to complete the rapid name exchange, according to records. The vast majority of that is the $ 35,399 he paid for the signs at Jones Beach.
But the cost of in-house sign printing remains elusive.
State Parks provided invoices from the various external contractors it used, but declined to provide information on the costs of internally printed signs and placards.
Petra Larsen, the agency’s document access manager, said the agency “does not have a central repository for the documents you are looking for,” referring to internal flagging costs.
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Why is the governor’s name on the signs anyway?
No one seems to be quite sure, but they know this: It has long been a tradition to have the governor’s name inscribed on many state signs, although it is not known exactly when it started.
State park officials said they believe the practice dates back at least to Governor Nelson Rockefeller, who served in the office from 1959 to 1973.
“Gateway signage in state parks and historic sites has regularly displayed the name of the current governor for many years,” Nearing said.
“The practice of state parks is to update this signage to reflect a change in administration. “
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Jon Campbell is the New York State team editor for the USA TODAY Network. He can be contacted at [email protected] or on Twitter at @JonCampbellGAN.
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