America’s form of government ensures that certain matters are left up to the states. The regulation of motor vehicles is one of those areas, and as a result, there are currently fifty unique license plates given out by every state in the union. New York is obviously one of those states, and until September 2, NY drivers have the ability to vote for the successor to the current “Empire Gold” plates. Although the change happens every ten years or so, it was still unexpected, and the choices are all vastly superior to the current design.
The next “base” plate will be the fourth changeover in my lifetime. From 1986 to late 2000 the Liberty plates were fastened to almost every car in the state. This design is elegant in its simplicity. The red, white, and blue all complement each other well and the prominent position of the Statue of Liberty is justified. My 1986 Taurus had these plates because it was registered to dad.
The Empire Blue plates replaced the Liberty design in 2000 and ran until 2010. This plate was a little more complex due to the addition of the NYC skyline and Niagara Falls, plus the motto at the bottom. Despite the more complicated design, the plate itself looks fantastic. The blues really complement each other and the overall layout is pleasing. I had Empire Blue plates on the Sable and regret not transferring them over to the Focus when I had the chance.
New York returned to a more simplistic design with the Empire Gold plates, but these were controversial for several reasons. For starters, the design didn’t capture the hearts and minds of New Yorkers like the previous plates did. It was an understandable reaction, as drivers had become accustomed to the mostly white plates that adorned their cars for about 24 years. I remember being horrified the first time I laid eyes on the new plates. There was another reason to dislike the change, and that was the mandatory requirement that drivers get new plates upon expiration of their current ones. Forced to pay for new plates with a design decided by the state? Not a good look. There’s a similar situation happening now over the new plates, unfortunately. But at least this time New Yorkers get a say in the new design.
Regardless of the circumstances that surround these plates, I’m glad the Empire Gold era is over. To that end, let’s take a look at the five choices.
Plate number one is a pretty decent design. Unfortunately, it has one fatal flaw. If the blue and gold band that runs across the top and the “Excelsior” from the bottom were removed, this plate could have been a contender.
Number two suffers from the same faults as one, but all would have been forgiven if the Statue of Liberty was moved to the middle of the plate. Seriously, how did they not do that? It would have been a great throwback to the Liberty plates.
Number three is interesting because it’s the biggest departure from the other entries in the contest. I like how the entire plate is filled with color. My issue is with the background image. The Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge (aka the new Tappan Zee Bridge) is perfectly fine and I understand why the state is proud of it, but it is not representative of the entire state. An image like the one featured here could never speak for all of New York, and that’s precisely why it doesn’t get my vote.
Number four comes so close to greatness, and that’s why it’s the most disappointing. My issue is with the top corners of plate. E Pluribus Unum (Out of Many, One) is the perfect motto for America, not New York. And I think most New Yorkers feel the same way. Plus, I think the area would look fine with some white space. Ditto for the right side, which features a cutout of the entire state. Why is it necessary? I’m totally fine with the cutout as it exists on the current plate, which is right between the plate number, but in this particular design it’s unwelcome. This plate really should have had a top strip configured like the Empire Blue plate, with various images of famous New York landmarks featured on both sides. That would have qualified it for GOAT status. Just look at the Liberty’s torch! It’s beautiful. But it wasn’t enough to sway me.
I didn’t purposely keep my preferred plate till the end. This is the state’s fifth choice. Why did number five win out? For one, it’s got landmarks from different areas of the state. And it doesn’t have any clutter on the top corners. It’s a nice amalgamation of the other two entries. This is the plate that I will gladly affix to my current or future car.
As for my favorite plate, that would be the Empire Blue design. The top and bottom strips of blue give it some nice flair, and the blue contrasts well with the white.
And that’s my take on the plate situation. What’s your pick among the five? And what is your favorite plate of all time?