The New Jersey Department of Transportation took down hundreds of campaign signs from three highways that run through the city. Campaign signs from Routes 19, 20, and 80 in Paterson were removed.
“State law prohibits the installation of any sign, including campaign signs, on public property, on land adjacent to a highway or road owned by a State or local government entity,” said Judy Drucker, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Department of Transportation (DOT) on Thursday afternoon. “The NJ Department of Transportation maintenance staff routinely remove signs during their daily rounds.”
Both mayoral and council at-large candidates have been plastering their campaign signs throughout the city. Some of these signs have been placed in prohibited spaces like abandoned buildings, government owned lots, sidewalks, and side of highways.
“They are cleaning me up. Who is cleaning me up?” remarked mayoral candidate Pedro Rodriguez. He reckoned 2,000 of his campaign signs have disappeared from the highways.
Rodriguez suspected a rival might be stealing them. When told the state took them down, Rodriguez replied, “Really? They’ve never done it before.”
The state looks the other way when the signs are placed few days prior to election day, said longtime councilman William McKoy.
“They give you some largess couple of days before the election,” said McKoy, who is running for mayor. “These guys don’t really know the rules.” He said this year, some campaigns have been placing their signs, without permission, on curbside lawns.
Some of those signs have landed on roadways creating a dangerous condition. For example, signs with metal spikes are on the roadways of Union Avenue, Totowa Avenue, and several other streets.
Councilman Andre Sayegh said there were some of his signs on the highways that were put up by some of his overzealous supporters. He said he is not too concerned about the state cleaning up the signs off the highways.
Sayegh was more concerned about an Acura that has been driving around the city picking up lawn signs installed by his supporters.
“I don’t appreciate people removing my signs from people’s properties. It’s happening right now,” said Sayegh.
Former councilman Aslon Goow, who is running for one of three available council seats, complained to the New Jersey Department of Transportation about the signs. He also urged mayor Jane Williams-Warren to take actions against those putting up signs on public property, curbside lawns, and utility poles.
“My biggest thing was the amount of garbage and litter it creates along with the danger of the metal that’s in those signs,” said Goow. “I applaud the state for moving so quickly to send the message it’s not going to be tolerated and it’s something the city of Paterson should be doing also.”
Goow said the state’s clean up has made the highways look “nice” without the campaign signs. He said all candidates promise clean streets, but, “they are the very offenders.”
The signs removed from the highways can be reclaimed by the candidates.
“The signs are stored in the maintenance yard for 30 days and may be retrieved by the owners. After that time, the signs are discarded,” said Drucker.
Rodriguez said his signs are expensive. He plans to reclaim his signs from the state.