Plate #1 (all images courtesy of New York State)

For many, the state of New York represents a global apex of art and culture. However, the state’s latest creative competition (which will have a lasting impact on its roads for years to come) has come up short.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced five possible replacements for the current license plate, mostly bland designs with a minimal color scheme — muted yellow, blues, and white. He’s asking the public to cast their vote through September 2 online.

Plate #2

Plate #3

The state will transition into the selected design in April 2020, transitioning out the more recent Empire Gold (a more bold, but also pretty unappealing iteration of the state colors — blue and yellow) plates.

However, some have voiced their ire that the new plates will come at a price — plates older than 10 years are mandatory to replace for the cost of $25. In 2010, the last time the plates were updated, there was not a mandatory replacement. However, this time, Governor Cuomo says, “We need a new design of a plate because we moved to a new technology,” including machinery like cashless tolls, which cannot properly scan all existing plates.

Plate #4

Plate #5

(For what it’s worth, I’m partial to plate number four).

Update 8/26/19 5:27pm: A spokesperson for the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) confirmed to Gothamist that despite the replacement fee, the new state license plates will be produced by incarcerated individuals earning an average of 65 cents an hour. About 2,100 prisoners work for Corcraft (the brand that falls under the Division of Correctional Industries) at the Auburn Correctional Facility, which produces goods including state license plates.

“While there has been a very cute rollout—the license plate survey, and the options that will be available—you look at the fee that’s going to be charged for you to replace your license plate, you’re talking about three days wages for someone who made that license plate,” Senator Zellnor Myrie (D) told Gothamist. “We like to call ourselves the progressive capital of the nation and we are a leader in liberty, but when we have a situation where folks who have been denied their liberty but who are still working are doing so for slave wages, I think that is a conversation that needs to be had.”

Currently, incarcerated individuals in New York earn between 16 cents per hour and $1.14 per hour. DOCCS says the average Corcraft inmate made 65 cents between the 2015 and 2016 fiscal year (approximately $1,092 annually).

Jasmine Weber is an artist, writer, and former news editor at Hyperallergic. Follow her on Instagram and

15 replies on “One of These Designs Will Unfortunately Be the Next New York License Plate”

  1. These are all fine. Well, except for the one of the Tappan Zee Bridge. Which is officially called the Mario Cuomo Bridge. Now, I loved Mario. He was a personal hero and an influence on my career (I worked as an intern in his NY press office in college). But his son is not him, getting the bridge named for his dad was scuzzy, and trying to make that bridge the symbol of the state is even more scuzzy. Oh, it’s a nice bridge. But this is all about Andy patting himself on the back.

  2. They all suck. Whats wrong with a plate _without_ a message or advert? There is actually one with a crappy rendering of the self-aggrandizing Papa Cuomo (formerly Tappan Zee) bridge? Give me a freaking break. Bring back the orange and blue… great color, no bullshit.

  3. Maybe instead of complaining about a license plate; y’all should protest and stop driving. I have not had a care since 2008 and I live in the midwest. Next.

    1. Pretty funny … “bored millennial” has “not had a care since 2008.” Is it a typo, or is it not?

      1. Sounds about right. It is having a care that causes all the problems for people. We should know better.

  4. The shape representing the state is odd and unnecessary. It looks like an automatic transmission. And what the heck with the “Excelsior”? I know, but it reminds me of what Bullwinkle the Moose was saying in the cartoon.

  5. JW, please do not cancel me for asking, but is “working” in a prison optional? I am unfamiliar with how this “slave labor” is implemented.

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