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Thread: Lights Out For New York Skyscrapers!

  1. #1
    Forum Veteran krulltime's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Manhattan - UWS

    Default Lights Out For New York Skyscrapers!

    Saving birds with a switch: NYC launches 'Lights Out' program

    The Empire State
    Building lighted up -
    soon to be a rare sight?

    Associated Press Writer

    September 20, 2005, 3:10 PM EDT

    NEW YORK -- City, business and wildlife officials flocked together on Tuesday to promote a new effort to reduce the number of migratory and resident birds that are killed or injured each year by flying into lighted windows of skyscrapers and other buildings.

    "Lights Out New York" seeks to have building owners turn off or dim lights that are a fatal attraction for many species that migrate annually along the Atlantic flyway. Scientists say the lights disrupt the birds' navigation systems that rely on visual cues, causing them to crash into windows.

    The new program is part of New York City Audubon's Project Safe Flight, which has documented about 4,000 birds killed or injured by building collisions in New York since 1997. Its survey listed about 100 different species as victims, the most common being the white-throated sparrow, the yellowthroat and the dark-eyed junco _ but not the rock dove, the ubiquitous city pigeon.

    Three injured birds, including a feisty red-tailed hawk that lost its left eye, were displayed during the news conference.

    The appeal is directed at owners of buildings 40 stories or taller, and low buildings along the Hudson and East rivers with extensive glass exteriors. They are asked to turn off nonessential lighting on upper stories of taller buildings and on the exteriors of lower ones, from midnight until daylight in September and October.

    "We're really trying to do this in the peak of migration," but it is not limited to that period, said E.J. McAdams, executive director of NYC Audubon. The spring phase of the program will likely start in mid-March and last about two months.

    Parks Department Commissioner Adrian Benepe said the development of suburban areas has caused city parks to take on a greater role "as oases ... where birds stop off to find shelter, to drink water and to eat food."

    Benepe noted that building owners would also save on energy costs by turning off their lights.

    In Chicago, which has a similar program, it's estimated that 10,000 birds are saved each year as a result of dimmer city lighting.

    New York real estate officials at the press conference said they expected building owners to cooperate. Nicholas La Porte Jr., executive director of Associated Builders and Owners of Greater New York, called "Lights Out" a "compassionate" cause.

    Copyright 2005 Newsday Inc.

  2. #2

    Default nice but

    I have a different view, its nice that somebody cares about nature but dimming the lightics will increase crime.


  3. #3
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003


    Isn't there some sort of "lights out" in effect anyway after midnight year round?

    I remember riding around last year and seeing the ESB's lights off on a weekday one night. I don't remember if it was 12 or 1AM though.....

    THAT was to reduce "light pollution". Now even that does not seem to be enough. Although I agree that having these birds die is not a good thing, what are the %%s on this? How many birds cross over Manhattan during this time and how many will it really save by shutting the lights off?

  4. #4
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    NYC - Downtown


    A good friend who is an avid bird-watcher and member of the Audubon Society has told me that the number of migrating birds who die in NYC each year is indeed in the thousands.

    Here is a link to "Project Safe Flight":

    An article on this from last year:

    And a link to NYC Audubon Society:

  5. #5
    Banned Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY


    Quote Originally Posted by LOVENYC456
    I have a different view, its nice that somebody cares about nature but dimming the lightics will increase crime...
    Then, you leave one to assume that you believe you can be mugged floating in the air outside at 400 feet.

  6. #6
    Forum Veteran krulltime's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Manhattan - UWS


    Kill the Light, Save a Bird

    At left, the Chrysler Building
    about 11 p.m. on Wednesday,
    and then an hour later, its
    lights turned down to aid birds.

    Published: September 23, 2005

    Tourists have always flocked to see the bright lights of New York City, but starting this week, the city is dimming parts of its renowned skyline to ward off one group of visitors: migratory birds. The Chrysler Building, Rockefeller Center, the Citigroup Center, the Morgan Stanley Building and the World Financial Center are among the high-profile high-rises that have agreed to requests from the city and the Audubon Society to dim or turn off nonessential lighting at midnight.

    Thus the city's skyscrapers will defer to nature at least twice a year: by dimming their lights in September and October, during the peak of the fall migratory season, and again in April and May, during the peak of the spring migratory season.

    While the Empire State Building's lighting policy to protect migratory birds is decades old, and other buildings have used netting on glass windows so birds do not mistake reflections for sky, this policy will be the first citywide effort to protect migratory birds from crashing into buildings. The voluntary policy is aimed at buildings taller than 40 stories, as well as lower glass buildings that hug the Hudson and East Rivers, which birds use as navigational aides. About five million birds pass through New York City during migration season, according to E. J. McAdams, the executive director of the New York City Audubon Society.

    The combination of glass, tall buildings and bright light is extremely dangerous for birds, according to Daniel Klem, an ornithologist at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa. He says that a conservative estimate is that more than 100 million birds die each year from crashing into glass on structures of all types, even houses.

    "Here is the bottom line: Birds just don't see glass," said Professor Klem. "The animals are not able to recognize glass as a barrier and avoid it."

    And lights, particularly those from skyscrapers, distract migratory birds from the visual cues they receive from the stars and the moon, said Douglas Stotz, a conservation ecologist at the Field Museum in Chicago.

    The bright lights of tall city buildings pull the birds off their migratory path and into urban canyons, especially when skies are foggy or overcast. Then the birds either crash into the building's glass at night because they are attracted to the light, or they circle the buildings until they become exhausted. In the morning, when they try to escape the city, they crash into the glass because they are confused by the reflection of sky.

    Unless people look carefully, the dead birds can be hard to spot because many of them are small songbirds.

    "They would be swept up by custodial staff," said Adrian Benepe, the New York City parks commissioner. "I've often seen them on the streets, and wondered, 'Why is this little songbird dead on the street?' "

    Since 1997, Audubon Society volunteers have collected more than 4,000 dead birds of 100 different species at just a handful of buildings in Midtown and Lower Manhattan.

    Toronto began a program to dim its lights in 1993, and Chicago started a voluntary program in 1999 that now includes 100 buildings. In Chicago, the Field Museum found an 80 percent reduction in bird deaths when lights were turned off during a five-year study on a single Chicago Building, McCormick Place. "When the lights are on, you get these big bird kills, and when they aren't, you don't," said Judy Pollock, director of bird conservation for the Audubon Society in Chicago.

    Even with a dimmed skyline, the problem of birds crashing into glass remains. Environmental groups are working with the construction industry to come up with glass that can be seen by birds, potentially by giving the glass a UV coating.

    Three real estate groups have agreed to promote the program to dim lights among their members: the Real Estate Board of New York, the Building Owners' and Managers' Association, and the Associated Builders and Owners of Greater New York. "We are going to make it a little safer for the birds to visit here," said Steve Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board, which represents many real estate developers. "The response that we have gotten is overwhelmingly, 'Sure.' "

    Certainly lower electric bills help sell the concept. Call it saving two birds with one stone: preventing fatal bird crashes while conserving energy. Energy savings could be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Most buildings plan to turn off just their exterior lights, but some will also turn off interior lights and ask their tenants to draw the shades. The only buildings expected to opt out are ones that are contractually obligated to keep advertisements lighted, Mr. Spinola said.

    Of the city's landmark buildings, the Empire State Building has long been aware of migratory bird problems. For at least 25 years, the building has turned off its decorative lights when large numbers of birds are observed flying around the top of the building during migration season. The circling birds are particularly common during foggy or overcast nights, said Lydia Ruth, a spokeswoman for the building.

    Employees from the observatory will call down to the building engineers to tell them to shut off the lights. "We don't want to take any chances, and we don't want to cause any bird death," Ms. Ruth said. "But we have people call the next day, 'Why did you turn the lights out early?' You can't keep everybody happy."

    Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

  7. #7
    Build the Tower Verre antinimby's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    in Limbo


    Tilting at Lampposts

    Susan Harder in her East Village apartment: “It seems like everything we do is fear-based.”

    Published: December 17, 2006

    Susan Harder, a former photo gallery owner who has lived for decades in the same walk-up apartment on East 10th Street, is the first to acknowledge that she is all of 57 years old, but she emanates an air of schoolgirlish mischief. Her blue eyes twinkle, her blond ponytail bounces, and she punctuates her sentences with what can only be described as giggles.

    Nevertheless, unlike many schoolgirls, Ms. Harder is a woman with a mission.

    The mission, which has absorbed her energies 40 hours a week for the past decade, is the fight against what is known by the somewhat anodyne term “light pollution” or, as Ms. Harder puts it with typical vigor, “our insane, just insane love of lighting absolutely everything up.”

    From streetlights to billboards to parking lots to private properties, she contends, in cities, suburbs and rural areas, the country is awash in excess light. This light, she claims, squanders money and energy, upsets the ecological balance, causes accidents, makes people sick and diminishes the beauty of the environment, both natural and man-made. The problem may be especially noticeable during the dark days of winter — Thursday is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year — but in the eyes of crusaders like Ms. Harder, it exists year round.

    “One day,” she said on a recent evening, over dinner in a small restaurant on Second Avenue across the street from her apartment, “we’ll look back at light pollution in the same way we do the recycling or ecology movements, and wonder how we ever could have thought otherwise. “I really do believe that,” she continued, tapping the table of the restaurant decisively.

    Ms. Harder’s evolution as a crusader against light pollution began 20 years ago. It was then that St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, which sits on 10th Street near Second Avenue directly across from her apartment, installed a series of “wall pack” fixtures around its exterior. Wall packs are those ubiquitous orange floodlights from which emanate as much as 1,000 watts of power; three of them shined directly up into Ms. Harder’s apartment.

    She eventually complained. Church officials responded by saying that they were merely trying to prevent assaults and robberies in the St. Mark’s graveyard. Ms. Harder countered that no assaults or robberies were taking place in her bedroom, so why light it up?

    Church officials finally agreed to tape over the top of the lights, and Ms. Harder went so far as to paint over her windowpanes and install triple-layer blackout curtains, but to little effect. “I mean, I was being tortured by it,” she said. (Jimmy Fragosa, church sexton, confirmed that St. Mark’s had modified the lights in response to her objections, adding, “We haven’t had any more complaints.”)

    The following year, a second “light trespass” incident, as such events are technically known, took place outside the house in East Hampton that Ms. Harder owns with her partner, John Imperatore. A full-time fighter in the battle against light pollution was born.

    “That’s when I became a full-time dark-sky advocate,” Ms. Harder said.

    “That’s when I knew there was no escape wherever you were.”

    Since then, she has come a long way. She has plunged into the byzantine ways of Albany, where three times, unsuccessfully so far, she has lobbied for and contributed information to legislation that would control exterior lighting levels. (Ever hopeful, she plans to try again next year.)

    She has delved into the arcane world of lumens, foot-candles and uniformity ratios. She has analyzed the pros and cons of high-pressure sodium bulbs versus metal halide ones, and become intimate with the properties of the semi cut-off luminaire — a luminaire is engineer-speak for a light — versus the full cut-off luminaire.

    She eagerly spouts statistics on subjects like a possible link between prolonged exposure to artificial light at night and breast cancer (the correlation exists, she says, citing a 2005 article in the journal Cancer Research) or the connection between additional street lighting and decreases in crime (that connection doesn’t exist, she says). Elected officials in the city and beyond have grown accustomed to her combination of sweet talk, cajoling and bullying.

    In short, Ms. Harder has become a virtual one-woman dark-sky mover and shaker in a city and state that she describes as “way, way behind the curve” in their lighting policies. “The whole Czech Republic has a lighting law,” she pointed out. “Lombardy has a lighting law. Malta has a lighting law. Long Island’s done wonderful things. But there’s something about New York.”

    With a jaundiced eye, she gazed at the small park across the street from the restaurant. “I mean, imagine what they’d make of that in Paris,” Ms. Harder said. “But here some lighting designer just dropped down a few standard unshielded high-pressure sodium lights, and the result is a mess. A total mess.”

    Despite major victories on Long Island — the towns of Riverhead, Huntington, East Hampton and most recently Brookhaven have all implemented dark-sky legislation in the past three years, largely based on her suggestions — Ms. Harder has found New York a tougher nut to crack. This, she and others contend, is because the city’s Department of Transportation, which oversees the installation of New York’s streetlights, has regularly opposed dark-sky legislation introduced in Albany, citing safety issues.

    “The real buzz saw we come up against repeatedly is the city,” said Assemblyman Alexander Grannis, a Democrat who represents the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island and who three times in the past four years has sponsored dark-sky legislation in Albany with State Senator Carl Marcellino, a Republican from Long Island. “They have a certain type of approach that theirs is the only way to deal with the issue and ‘we’re not going to change.’ ”

    In response, Iris Weinshall, the transportation commissioner, said in a statement that the city was taking measures to reduce the wattage of its 180,000 streetlights. But Ms. Weinshall added: “Our streetlights are critical to keeping pedestrians, motorists and cyclists safe at night, and we’ll continue to do our best to make sure that our streets are safe and well-lit." A department spokeswoman, Kay Sarlin, said the agency receives hundreds of requests a year for new streetlights “from residents concerned that their streets are too dark.”

    And Steven Galgano, executive director of engineering for the agency’s Traffic Operations Division, described as “unacceptable” any of the new designs for street lighting he had seen from dark-sky advocates. Those designs, he added, were less bright and focused light more directly downward. The fixtures currently used by the department, he said, are only partly shielded and create a uniform blanket of light with no dark patches between the bright spots.

    On a major urban highway, like the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, he added, if motorists had to rapidly adjust their eyes as they move from bright area to dark areas, it could be dangerous. “But if anyone can show us a full cut-off luminaire that needs less energy and produces the same amount of light,” Mr. Galgano said, “we’d be happy to look at it.”

    Nor is the Transportation Department the dark-sky movement’s only adversary. Opposition also comes from some of the city’s business improvement districts, as was apparent one evening a few weeks ago when Ms. Harder conducted a little tour of what she regards as some of the city’s dark-sky trouble spots. At the wheel was her partner, Mr. Imperatore, a real estate developer and patient chauffeur.

    The first stop was Midtown. “The whole area around Penn Station all the way to Grand Central is just insane,” Ms. Harder said. “They put up all these drop-pendant double jobbers using metal halide. It’s just sick.”

    The “double jobbers” were twin-headed 250-watt fixtures that emitted an intense blue-white light, and had been installed by the 34th Street Partnership, a business improvement district. These lights, combined with the lighting on storefronts and billboards in the district, many of them outfitted with 10 or more thousand-watt bulbs, produced a glow that seemed uncannily similar to daylight. People and objects were clearly visible, yet strangely indistinct. Depth of field seemed to disappear.

    At Seventh Avenue and 36th Street, Ms. Harder pointed out three double-headed fixtures on one corner. “A cluster glare bomb!” she announced brightly.

    Two blocks south, she noted a spot where 11 thousand-watt lights beneath a billboard did battle with a combined 500 watts of street lighting on the corner. Ms. Harder sighed. “I mean, which responsible human being would design lighting like this?” she said.

    Farther downtown, she stopped to comment on what she saw as yet another troublesome area. Lining both sides of Broadway from Fulton Street to the Battery stood fixtures that resembled giant cigarettes placed on end.

    swords!” Ms. Harder says.

    “It’s Obi-Wan Kenobi’s swords!” Ms. Harder said with a giggle. “Seriously, lighting designers love this stuff. Their creed is ‘Glare is Good.’ And there’s no light hitting the ground, see? It all hits these beautiful old buildings and washes them out. You can’t see a thing.”

    Gently, Mr. Imperatore intervened. “Honey,” he said, “I think it’s time to head elsewhere.” He turned south past City Hall, at which point Ms. Harder let out a squeal: “Ohh! O.K.! There’s a great example of good lighting.”

    She pointed to a number of gaslights set in historical fixtures, flickering faintly yet clearly illuminating City Hall Park. “Those are sensitive,” she said.

    “They do their job. They don’t blind you, but you can see where you’re going.”

    It’s hard to imagine how dark the city was until well into the 19th century. The first public lighting company, the New York Gas Company, was sanctioned by the city in 1823 to light the streets south of Grand Street.

    Gaslight was dangerous, flickering and dirty, and most New Yorkers, with good reason, feared the night as a time of disorder. By 1880, crude electric arc lights were set up between 42nd and 53rd Streets along Broadway, the first avenue in the country to be so illuminated, later giving rise to the label “The Great White Way.”

    New inventions began arriving in a frenzy. In 1882, Thomas Edison opened the world’s first electric generating station, on Pearl Street. The following year brought a new gas mantle with an incandescent burner that emitted a white light three times as bright as the old gaslights; it, too, would be vanquished by the march of electric lighting.

    Lest one imagines this light was all for “serious” purposes, New Yorkers showed their true concerns early on: By the 1890s, Madison Square was home to a giant electric billboard advertising a Coney Island hotel, 80 feet by 50, consisting of 15,000 individual lights controlled by an operator, and another, 47 feet long, promoting Heinz pickles. In the 1880s, Lady Liberty’s hand was so brightly illuminated by electric light that mariners complained and it was toned down. The city’s romance with electric light was instant and all-consuming.

    With all this in mind, the question arises: Are Ms. Harder and her colleagues merely tilting at windmills? Some public-minded people seem genuinely surprised by her views, among them Daniel Biederman, president of the 34th Street Partnership.

    In the 1990s, when up to four times as many murders and robberies were reported in the city as now, Mr. Biederman’s organization installed the “double-jobbers” that Ms. Harder found so offensive.

    “Safety was our major goal when we began,” Mr. Biederman said. “The area was incredibly dark, and crime was very high. We deliberately chose metal halide because it doesn’t impart a sickly glow. The sodium vapor lights made people look as if they were ill.”

    Crime statistics over the years have borne out his assumptions, he said, with an overall decrease in street crime in the area since 1991 “of about 85 to 90 percent.”

    For Ms. Harder, such tactics are merely “overkill.”

    “It seems like everything we do is fear-based,” she said. “Look, I don’t want to switch off all the lights — this is New York City — but I am against excessive and wasteful lighting. You could cut back those wattages by 50 percent and it wouldn’t make a difference.”

    In response, Mr. Biederman said he was not aware “of a single letter” from anyone requesting less light, but added that he would be happy to discuss ways to address the situation while still keeping things safe. “I’d be absolutely receptive to it,” he said. “And I’d do it at some cost, too, if we felt it was right.”

    Given New York’s early sweet tooth for electric advertisements, it’s not surprising that bright ads and billboards continue to be a major part of the city’s light pollution problem. Councilman Alan Gerson, whose district includes SoHo, NoHo and the Lower East Side, is drafting legislation to control certain flashing illuminated billboards, private security lights on roofs and other such “nuisance” lights.

    “It’s a growing problem,” said Mr. Gerson, who hopes to introduce his legislation early next year and is optimistic about its chances. “Buildings are putting up intense lights on their facades and rooftops, for commercial or security reasons, and they forget it shines into people’s windows.”

    Despite these and other obstacles, Ms. Harder remains an optimist.

    “More and more advocacy groups are adopting lighting pollution as part of their collective agenda,” she said. “The fact that the Sierra Club has taken on the issue, the fact that the American Lung Association and the Natural Resources Defense Council both came out behind Grannis’s legislation — this is fantastic.”

    Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

  8. #8


    She eagerly spouts statistics on subjects like a possible link between prolonged exposure to artificial light at night and breast cancer (the correlation exists, she says, citing a 2005 article in the journal Cancer Research). . .
    I wish that Ms. Harder had given a little more info on this publication instead of leaving it to the reader to research.

    I'm fairly certain that the publication is "Of Mice and Women: Light as a Circadian Stimulus in Breast Cancer Research":

    The article's final conclusion is that the link between women's prolonged exposure to artificial light and breast cancer is inconclusive and requires a great deal more research.

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