Capital New York reports:
A 2012 federal transportation bill had the inadvertent effect of placing some New York City streets under the jurisdiction of the 1965 Highway Beautification Act, legislation that restricts signage on the National Highway System. Times Square's massive billboards exceed the Beautification Act's size requirements, which limit signs to 1,200 square feet. Now the city Department of Transportation is under federal pressure to remove the billboards or pay up, D.O.T. commissioner Polly Trottenberg says...
as part of the National Highway System, these Manhattan streets must now comply with federal requirements, including the Highway Beautification Act, a Johnson-era regulation intended to reduce the presence of billboards on highways. ...Failure to comply with the Beautification Act is penalized by a 10 percent reduction in a state's federal highway funds.
Turning Broadway and Seventh Avenue into part of the federal highway system is a great example of how the federal government grows until it takes over things, such as city streets, that should be state or local responsibility. A professor at NYU, Mitchell Moss, tells Capital New York: "This is a gross and heavy-handed effort by the federal government to undermine New York's vibrant street life. This is another example where the federal and state governments should stay out of New York. They have enough to do elsewhere."
New York's overwhelmingly Democratic votes in congressional and presidential elections mean that the city's voters are supporting a larger and more meddlesome national government, even if the city's voters don't actually like when the federal government shows up and orders them around.