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SoHo Residents Slam Tourist Signs as 'Eyesores'

By Andrea Swalec | April 17, 2013 9:57am | Updated on April 17, 2013 12:15pm

SOHO — The city Department of Transportation is slated to install signs this spring to help people navigate the city, but some SoHo residents say they know exactly where to put the planned placards — somewhere else.

A group of SoHo and Nolita residents is pressuring the DOT to abandon plans to install new "wayfinding" signs for tourists and locals within the landmarked area, arguing the signage will further crowd streets already crammed with pedestrians and vendors.

"[The signs] are going to be a magnet for graffiti. They're unsightly and they really don't belong in a historic district," SoHo Alliance president Sean Sweeney said Monday, calling the signs "eyesores."

Scheduled to be installed in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens this spring, the signs are part of a citywide push to give New York residents and visitors additional navigational tools, a spokesman for the DOT said.

The department declined to provide additional information about the signs, but a presentation by department officials in January said they will stand more than 8 feet tall, show viewers a "you are here" dot to help them orient themselves, and provide walking distances to popular sites.

The wayfinding signage project will cost $6 million citywide, according to reports published in January. The initiative is funded by the federal government, elected officials and local business improvement districts, the DOT presentation says.

A map dated March 7 that was provided to CB2 members shows planned wayfinding sign sites at Broome and Lafayette streets, Grand and Mulberry streets, Grand Street and the Bowery, and at multiple points along Canal Street as far west as Broadway.

Community Board 2 member Maury Schott said he didn't think the large signs belonged in the landmarked SoHo-Cast Iron Historic District, which is roughly bounded by West Houston Street to the north, Lafayette and Centre streets to the east, Canal Street to the south and West Broadway to the west.

"This is a historic district," he said, "and there should be some consideration of that."

CB2's landmarks committee unanimously voted Monday night to request that the DOT place the signs outside the landmarked area. The full community board will vote at its board meeting Thursday night to approve or reject the committee's resolution.

Locals may gripe about the planned signs, but the DOT has said they're needed. More than a quarter of visitors and 9 percent of locals surveyed by the department admitted to having been lost in the city at least once in the previous week.

Half of visitors and a third of locals couldn't identify which direction was north.