Written by Rich Forestano Wednesday, 11 September 2013 00:00
At one point it greeted all who saw it with a hearty welcome. Today, some say it’s half of what it used to be.
Now, the “Welcome To Mineola” sign at the Long Island Rail Road train station—a community focal point for decades—may be coming down.
Winthrop-University Hospital has expressed interest in revamping or replacing the sign, which hangs over the northbound approach to a new $80-million, 95,000-square-foot research facility that the hospital is building. The roof-top sign is directly south of the hospital’s rising facility, slightly obstructing what would be a prime view of the building.
“I don’t like it,” said Mineola commuter Tyrone Trail, motioning to the sign. “The clock is not working and half the sign is missing. It should be restored. Update it a little bit.”
Winthrop seems to align with those who say the run-down sign has become an eyesore.
“Right now, [the sign] is a disaster,” said Winthrop’s Public Affairs Vice President Ed Keating. “Half of it has come down already based on [Sandy].” The hospital hopes its new buildings will bring about a rebirth for the area.
“Our feeling is that the new building is emblematic of a renaissance of that whole area,” he stated. “To the east, you’ve got new buildings going up and hopefully other stores will come in.”
Certainly, the sign has been a key component in Mineola’s visual character. “The ‘Welcome to Mineola’ sign at Station Plaza North has marked the prime gateway to our village for many years,” said Mayor Scott Strauss. “While the sign is private property and sits atop a privately-owned building, it was nonetheless an important asset to our community and contributed to our unique identity.”
In a random sampling of viewpoints taken at the train station, while most people acknowledged that the sign is greatly in need of an upgrade, many want to preserve its special nostalgic appeal.
Steve Quigley has traveled through Station Plaza almost religiously for the past 50 years. Quigley loves the big Going Sign logo.
“You could always gauge if the train was on time by that sign,” he said. “Today, not so much.” Quigley wants that classic feel to remain at the station.
Hospital officials confirmed that reps reached out to Nick Liakonis, who bought the building (including the sign) in 2000 and opened the Station Plaza Diner on the ground floor. Liakonis told the Mineola American talks were ongoing at this point.
The hospital hopes to be able to please those who love the old sign while bringing the village a fresh look. Without offering any concrete details, hospital officials all but assured that the popular “Welcome to Mineola” phrase would
remain with a reconstructed sign, adding that any new sign would be “in the best of taste” and “remain as true as possible to the original [sign],” and that “nothing will offend the sensibilities of the residents.”
“We’d be happy to keep [the sign] there as long as it’s structurally sound,” said Keating. “We want to try to reach a plan that would make everybody happy.”
Going Signs President Jim Going said his grandfather John Jr. built the Mineola sign around 1940. The sign giant relocated to Plainview in 1974.
The Goings are responsible for one of the most recognizable signs in the country: the Ed Sullivan Theater’s “Late Show with David Letterman” board. While neon signs have been come a nostalgic piece of an era gone by, Going still manages to turn a profit, maintaining key areas of Times Square in New York City.
Still, Jim said the Mineola sign holds a special place in the business’s roots. A photo of the village sign adorns the lobby of the company’s current headquarters.
“The sign has only been redone three times [since it was built],” he said.“It’s been there so long, I feel something should be done, but I’m not involved with what happens with the sign anymore.”
Any structural changes would have to be brought before the Mineola Village Board. Mayor Scott Strauss said that Liakonis reached out to the village about renovation.
“Although no plans have yet been submitted, I welcome the opportunity to evaluate a proposal for an appropriate entryway welcoming visitors to the Village of Mineola,” Strauss said.
Quigley, too, feels a renovated sign could continue to be a major centerpiece of the public square. “This sign has been a fixture in Mineola for as long as I can remember...five decades,” he said. “I wish the clock [on the sign] worked. It should be restored.”
Pointing to the freestanding vintage-style clock at ground level, Quigley notes that a vintage-inspired redesign would match the ground-level clock, installed in 2010 in a major reconstruction of the north side of the plaza.
Jasmine L. of New Hyde Park said it never occurred to her how the sign has fallen into disrepair and calls it a disaster.
“Now that I’m looking it over, it’s in bad shape,” she said. “But I don’t want to see ‘Welcome To Mineola, brought to you by Starbucks’ or anything like that. The sign gives the train station an identity; makes you feel like you’ve come to an organized place.”