Public offered New York license plate design vote

Blue and white plates to be replaced first, as registrations come up for renewal
Proposed designs
Proposed designs

ALBANY — Do you like the Statue of Liberty image on New York license plates, or would you perhaps prefer an image of the state’s newest bridge across the Hudson, the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge?

With 11.3 million vehicles registered in the state, it’s not an idle question, and it apparently shouldn’t be left to bureaucrats.

The current governor, Andrew M. Cuomo, announced Monday that the public will have the chance to weigh in on the design of the next New York license plate, either online now, or at the upcoming New York State Fair in Syracuse.

Voting will run through Monday, Sept. 2, on Cuomo’s website. People must be a New York state resident to cast a vote, and can only vote once.

Also see: Foss: New license plate designs are OK

There are five choices: three that depict just the Statue of Liberty, including one with a close-up of Lady Liberty’s flaming torch; one featuring the modern bridge that replaced the Tappan Zee Bridge, called the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge; and one with a tiny panorama beneath the numbers that includes Niagara Falls, wild forest, the State of Liberty with the lower Manhattan skyline behind it, and a lighthouse.

The new plates will be phased in starting next April 1.

On social media, some commentators immediately wondered about the inclusion of the Mario M. Cuomo bridge as one of the choices. The bridge, named after the current governor’s father, is barely a year old, and was most recently in the news because signs that didn’t include Mario Cuomo’s middle initial are being replaced. (Both men have the middle name Matthew.)

Others wondered whether new license plates are really needed.

In 2009, the state was going to require all registrants to get new plates, but backed off and made the switch to new plates — the blue and gold plates — optional. That has resulted in both blue-and-white and blue-and-gold plates being found on the state’s highways.

Despite social media sniping about the choices, no organized opposition to new plates had emerged as of late Monday.

At the Great New York State Fair, the public can vote in the governor’s exhibit starting Wednesday. The license plate with the most votes will become the state’s official license plate and will be available beginning on April 1, 2020, the governor’s office said.

“License plates are a symbol of who we are as a state and New Yorkers should have a voice and a vote in its final design,” Cuomo said in announcing the competition. “As the life span of the old plates comes to an end and we develop new ones that are as easy to read as possible, I encourage all residents to take part in choosing this piece of our state’s history and the State Fair is a perfect place to do that.”

Also see: Foss: New license plate designs are OK

The new plates will replace the blue and white plates, most of which are more than 10 years old. Once the new plates become available, the Department of Motor Vehicles will also stop issuing the Empire Gold plates.

The contest, the governor’s office said, kicks off a 10-year license plate replacement program intended to ensure all New York license plates are reflective and easy to read. Currently, over 3 million vehicles have aging plates that are 10 years old or older, the governor’s office said. Due to age, the state says some are damaged, oxidized and peeling.

Replacing aging plates will eliminate legibility issues that hinder license plate readers, which are used by law enforcement, red light cameras and cashless tolling systems, from correctly identifying the registered vehicle owner.

Beginning in April, as customers renew their vehicle registrations over the next two years, those with license plates that are 10 years old or older will be issued new plates. The current $25 license plate replacement fee will be added to the cost of the vehicle owner’s registration renewal. Customers may also keep their current license plate number for an additional $20 fee.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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