Brooklyn Heights ‘Signs’ Off On DOT’s Mixed-Case Lettering Mandate

Street signs in Brooklyn Heights will soon be following the letter of the law. The Federal Highway Administration has mandated that your tax dollars be spent on replacing 250,000 capital-letter street signs in New York City with mixed-case—specifically utilizing a condensed version of the Clearview typeface (licensed as ClearviewHwy).

So far, about 11,000 street name signs have been replaced around NYC’s five boroughs to meet national standards in typography and surface reflectivity, according to The New York Times—including some along Brooklyn Heights’ Montague Street. Brown historical signs will maintain their color.

Clearview was created in the 1990s by designers Donald Meeker and James Montalbano, working with the Thomas D. Larson Pennsylvania Transportation Institute and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. “With its crisp, clean design, Clearview represents exactly what its name suggests,” says city transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. “Whether through signs, markings or sidewalks, we’re bringing clarity and simplicity to street design.”

Developer Montalbano recalls about two years ago crossing the East River from Brooklyn—where he lives—coming off the Brooklyn Bridge and seeing a sign for “Chinatown” with an arrow in Clearview. About a month ago, he also noticed Clearview signs on Montague Street in the Heights. “It’s very exciting,” he told NY Times. “We’ve been working on this project for a very long time.”

A number of the new signs replace those scheduled for routine maintenance, as well as when streets are under repair or reconstruction. “But sometimes, the new signs appear to have replaced perfectly serviceable older signs with all-uppercase lettering,” the Times notes, which has meant of tirade of criticism directed toward the Highway Administration, an agency of the federal Department of Transportation. As a result, DOT has since eased or eliminated some 46 deadlines and/or mandates for dutiful compliance.

(Graphic/New York Times)

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  • Bloomy

    If the issue is about the money to replace the signs, why doesn’t the city just auction off the old ones. I am sure people in each neighborhood would be happy to buy the old sign for the street they live on. I wouldn’t mind a Remsen St sign on hang on my wall.

  • bronxkid

    Wonder how many street names in the nabe will be misspelled and mangled in this redo.

  • None

    THANK GOD FOR OUR WISE GOVERNMENT! We can’t fund social security, but, boy will our street signs be easy to read.

    Since they’ve “been working on this for a long time” you can add to the cost of 250,000 signs – the the salaries and overhead that produced this worthwhile program

    I guarantee we will not have one single fewer tourist not get lost even though the street name signs will now be readable

    I hear ten-sided stop signs are next on the list because eight-sided shapes cause obesity

    On the flip side, that bent Montague St sign at Pierrepont Place will soon be refreshed!

    In all seriousness, thank you for reporting on where our tax dollars are being spent

  • None

    @bloomy – I like the way you’re thinking – good revenue opp

    I say the Montague sign goes to the historical society to preserve our penchant for wastefulness

    But who’s going to ante up and buy “Postal Facility Way” and Eldert La?” “19th Lane” anyone?

  • j

    Sounds like a politician’s kid wanted to open a signage business and daddy got ’em a contract to replace 250,000 perfectly good existing signs.

  • HenryLoL

    Wow — What a complete waste of money. I cant think of anyone that would support this. Almost as crazy as spending a million dollars to rename the 59th Street Bridge for Ed Kotch or TriB to RFK. Nuts. I would have rather they be re-named Bank of America Bridge or Trump Bridge and have them PAY US for the glory.

  • Knight

    @j: the 250,000 is just in NYC. This is a national program; imagine what those totals are like! And somewhere in a federal office sits someone patting himself (or herself) on the back over how many jobs this created!

  • David on Middagh

    Bloomy—genius idea.

    As for the mixed case, I don’t believe it will help that much on our little street signs. The mixed case helps create a distinctive word shape. If you already know the word and how it should look in that font, you might be able to apprehend the street sign all at once. But if, as so many street signs are, the sign is a foreign name, or some name with variant spellings, then maximizing the size of individual letters might be more important than conveying the shape of the word.

    The increased reflectivity can’t hurt, tho’.

  • Willowtowncop

    My mother used to live on 42th Ave in San Francisco, until she made the mistake of sending a picture to a local columnist. The week after it ran, they changed it to 42nd.

  • GHB

    So that was Fortytooth?

  • willowtowncop

    It was. I wish I’d stolen it.

  • Gerry

    I wonder if MONTAGUE TERR will become Montague Terrace?

    Can ya dig it?

  • Arch Stanton

    The tragedy is, the money being spent on the signs could have paid for a new aquatics center.

  • Gerry

    @ Arch Stanton – LOL but not hardly! A new state of the arts aquatics center will cost millions to build and then millions to maintain even more than these signs.

  • http://BrooklynBugle Bklyn Hts Tax Payer

    This is considered a priority? You’ve got to be kidding. The City has no money to repair the “Use At Your Own Risk” streets but for this they do. Why not spend the money PUTTING UP STREET SIGNS WHERE THERE ARE NONE? The proposed changes will only add to the myriad of confusion that already exists. Well I guess the City doesn’t care as THEY ARE USING OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY.

  • Andrew Porter

    You can already buy surplus subway signage from the MTA.

    I can see a roaring business in selling signage from the fruit streets. Maybe a source of revenue for the BHA and/or local charities?

  • Gerry

    @ Andrew Porter – maybe booming business selling fruit street signs not roaring.