ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The state of New York has outlawed the display of a noose as a threat, following several high-profile cases involving the symbol of racist lynchings.

Gov. David Paterson signed the law Thursday to make such displays a felony punishable by as many as four years in prison.

"It is sad that in these modern times there remains a need to address the problem of individuals who use nooses as a means of threat and intimidation," he said in a statement. "But it is a reality, and if we ignore it we would be derelict in our duty."

Nooses were found last year on a black professor's door at Columbia University, outside a post office near the site of the Sept. 11 attacks in Manhattan and on Long Island.