STREET SIGNS, Greenpoint

by Kevin Walsh

During a recent walk over the New Kosciuszko Bridge connecting Greenpoint and Laurel Hill, Queens, I cast my gaze downward on the Brooklyn side to Gardner Avenue and Thomas Street where a new park had just about been completed beneath the bridge. Already kids were taking advantage of the skateboard park section. Except for the new park area, this part of Brooklyn remains heavily industrial in aspect.

I noticed a new street sign design. Though still green as mandated by the federal government for highway and street signs (with exceptions in some urban areas) The shape of the sign is boxier, with a white frame. The lettering remains Highway Gothic, albeit the much inferior upper and lower case design that itself was also mandated approximately a dozen years ago. I do not know if this is a prototype for a new NYC street sign design and I suspect it’s just an experimental design used in an out-of-the-way area.

Around 2010 the Department of Transportation embarked on a street sign replacement program for the entire city. Signs in all uppercase were replaced by new signs with caps and lowercase, at first in the new Clearview font and later returning to Highway Gothic. However the city did not replace hundreds of signs and seems to have a strange policy of replacing sun-bleached signs last of all. Signs were replaced haphazardly; there would be a run of new signs for a few blocks, then old untouched signs for a few blocks. There seems to be no set plan for sign replacement, which sort of drives me nuts. I wish someone at the DOT sign shop would let me know exactly what the replacement strategy is.

In any case I haven’t noticed any new signs in a year or two, except here in Greenpoint, so perhaps there’s a money pinch.

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Frankie May 7, 2021 - 4:03 pm

I have a question about NY street signs in general. Why are most (if not all) numbered street in New York all cardinal numbers and not ordinal numbers? How far back in time does this practice go?

Philip May 12, 2021 - 1:43 pm

I’ve seen this style at a few intersections near the new Kosciuszko Bridge, so I assume they are the work of a State DOT contractor unfamiliar with NYC street sign styles.

On a separate note, as a graphic designer, the general typographic quality of new street signs is just awful. Weird kerning, unnecessarily condensed numbers, etc….

Sal March 26, 2023 - 7:38 am

They need to return to Highway Gothic all caps signs, these
newer lowercase signs are terribly hard to see. I think they had it right and didn’t need to fix what didn’t need to be fixed!


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