Lights out for parachute jump

The Brooklyn Paper
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They spent $1.7 million to re-light the Parachute Jump earlier this summer — but the landmark will soon go dark to save birds.

Last week, the Parachute Jump became the first Brooklyn building to join the “Lights Out New York” program, which encourages tall buildings to douse their lights to protect migratory birds.

“On a foggy night, when the birds don’t have the moon or the stars as a navigational guide, they [can] start circling lighted towers,” said Yigal Gelb, of New York City Audubon.

Once the birds begin circling, they get disoriented, and crash into each other or the tower. And sometimes they get so tired flying around that they drop simply from exhaustion.

“There have been sites where they’ve found thousands [of dead birds] on a single day,” lamented Gelb. The World Trade Center’s Twin Towers were once hated in aviary circles for the way in which they ensnared birds in their glow — an irony considering the events of 9-11.

The predicament of migratory birds in the big city rends the hearts of animal lovers citywide, including Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe.

“Visits to our public parks are not complete without the happy sounds of chirping birds,” he said.

But, despite the flocks of animal lovers in New York, Lights Out New York is hardly soaring with popularity.

The Parachute Jump is the program’s only Brooklyn member, and one of only six members citywide, a group that includes the Chrysler and Citicorp buildings.

Parachute Jump lightning designer Leni Schwendinger said she was more than happy to re-program the tower’s lighting scheme during the fall and spring migratory seasons.

“I’m happy to be a poster child” for the “Lights Out” program, Schwendinger said.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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