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New York Unveils New License Plate Winner, Gov. Cuomo Backs Down On Forcing Drivers To Change Plates

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – After weeks of controversy, conspiracy theories, public debate, and public anger – New Yorkers have finally chosen a new license plate.

It could have been any one of five plate designs – four with some variation of the Statue of Liberty and one with the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge.

Proposed New York State License Plate Designs
(credit: CBS2)

The winner -- overwhelmingly selected by nearly 50 percent of the 325,000 voters -- showcases some of New York's most iconic landmarks:

New York DMW New License Plate Design 2019
(credit: New York DMV)

The State Department of Motor Vehicles made the big reveal in a late afternoon press release on Friday. The plate displaying the bridge honoring Gov. Cuomo's late father tied for last -- chosen by just 9.7 percent of the voters.

The choice may not end the so-called "plate-gate" controversy because what angered politicians and countless drivers across the state was the governor's decision to force drivers to get new plates whether they need them or not and pay at least $25 to do it.

The controversy infuriated Gov. Cuomo who fumed in a radio interview, claiming "this is cheap politics meets cheap journalism."

Under Cuomo's original plan:

  • On April 1, three million drivers with plates that are ten years or older were to automatically get new plates when they renew their registration.
  • A $25 replacement fee would be added to the registration fee
  • A $20 additional charge if you want the same plate number
  • At $25 a pop, three million plates would bring in $75 million to the state.

Eventually, the state's 11.2 million cars would have to get the new plates so they can be read by the new electronic toll readers on bridges and the equally controversial congestion pricing plan in Manhattan.

On Friday, the governor bowed to the public's fury saying maybe there is a way to keep your plates if they are in good condition.

"We don't want anyone to have to replace a plate if the plate is in fine condition… We have to find a way to inspect a license plate to determine whether or not it has to be replaced," Cuomo conceded.

The governor said he's looking for a "practical" way to make sure plates are readable; possibly making it part of the annual car inspection program or maybe asking drivers to bring their plates to the DMV to get an approval.

He also said if lawmakers don't like the $25 fee, they can reduce it as long as they find the money in the budget.

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