ALBANY — Amid the controversy swirling over Gov. Andrew Cuomo's plan to raise the new license plate fee to $25, the public competition for the design of the new plate became an afterthought — except to internet conspiracy theorists who thought Cuomo has rigged the election.
But it turns out the winning design in the public poll wasn't the image of the new Hudson River bridge named after Cuomo's father, Mario — it was the design that included Niagara Falls, wild forest, and the New York City skyline. It was the design that most reflected the state's different aspects.
The state Department of Motor Vehicles announced the winner in a brief press release late Friday afternoon. It won out over four other designs, in public voting that took place online and at the New York State Fair in Syracuse. Three of the other designed featured the Statue of Liberty, and one featured the new Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge.
State DMV Commissioner Mark Schroeder said there were 325,000 votes cast, and the winning design received nearly 50 percent of the vote. "The design overwhelmingly selected by New Yorkers showcases some of our most iconic symbols and truly represents what the Empire State is all about -- our diversity, our unparalleled architectural and natural beauty, and our unyielding commitment to freedom and justice for all," he said in a statement.
Voting took place over a two-week period, and ended last Monday.
The winning design will become the official state license plate starting next April 1, and over the following decade all current plates are to be converting to the new design, assuming the state Legislature doesn't make any changes to the plan when it returns in January.
Reacting to the controversy, Schroeder repeated his willingness to work with the state Legislature on a system to phasing the plates in, and to charge a lower fee.
"As we've said before, these new license plates are necessary for both law enforcement and for out statement electronic tolling system," he said.