Blinded by the light: Ridgites throw shade at city over too-bright street lamps

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They have to wear sunglasses at night.

The Department of Transportation needs to tone down the new, high-intensity street lights that are shining into homes and ruining residents’ quality of life, Ridgites say.

The super-bright bulbs are causing residents some serious headaches.

“I was told to avoid bright, artificial light,” said Ridgite Rosemary Steinberg, a cancer survivor who developed ocular migraines due to chemotherapy, and now has to wear sunglasses indoors and out to prevent extreme pain. “And then we came home the first night [after the lights were installed] and the migraines started. First time in two years.”

The glare is so strong it’s like something from a science-fiction film, the 76th Street resident said.

Have you ever seen ‘Close Encounters?’ It’s like the mother ship coming in for a landing,” Steinberg said.

Steinberg and her husband have already blazed through $300 on new window coverings to block out the invasive illumination since the city put in the new bulbs about two weeks ago, she said.

They’ve tried to shed light on the situation by calling 311, Community Board 10, and the Department of Transportation, and even writing a letter to Mayor DeBlasio, she said.

The mayor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The community board is forwarding all complaints to the city, said CB10 district manager Josephine Beckmann. The board got 15 calls about the amped-up lamps — mainly from 76th Street — in just two days, she said.

Neighbors seem to agree new lamps weren’t a bright idea.

“It’s been horrible since last Thursday,” said 76th Street retiree Marie Albi, who’s apartment is situated under a street lamp. “It’s like we’re living in a film set over here. I can’t sleep.”

Locals want the city to use lower-intensity lights, angle them away from homes, or install shields on the bulbs so they only shine straight down, affected residents said.

The city is considering the latter, according to Beckmann, however a Department of Transportation spokeswoman would only confirm that the city is aware of the issue.

But the problem only seems to be hitting home for those living directly across the street from the lights.

“It’s bright, but it’s not shining on the whole block,” said 76th Street resident Zecil Reid, whose apartment is a few doors down from the nearest lamp. “I don’t know what they’re complaining about.”

The Department of Transportation is in the process of replacing the city’s 250,000 street lights with high-efficiency light-emitting diodes — an upgrade from traditional 100-watt bulbs — citywide in a plan that’s supposed to save taxpayers $8 million a year in maintenance and $6 million annually in energy costs, according to information from the city.

In other cities where super-bright streetlights have become an issue, complaints from locals have led to lengthy legal battles. Steinberg said she hopes it doesn’t come to that here.

“There’s people suing their counties, suing their municipali­ties,” she said. “In Seattle it’s been going on for four years. I don’t want to go through that.”

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

MJ from Bay Ridge says:
With LED color rendering is off from previous high-pressure sodium (HPS) bulbs, it will take a while for most people to adjust seeing yellow lights for many decades. The LED gives better contrast and clarity than the old HPS lights, and there is a lot less light pollution. Yes, the LED should never directly be looked at because the technology is to emit large quantity of lighting with circuit board. Interestingly, people are looking at LED emit lights from smartphones and TVs without much complaint.
Aug. 4, 2015, 8:26 am
MJ from Bay Ridge says:
also note that most sidewalks are now darker with the new LED lighting because of the lack of light spilling, mostly the road receives most lighting.
Aug. 4, 2015, 8:28 am
Tony from Bayridge says:
I love the new lights. I can sleep with my blinds open and not be bothered by the glare of the streetlights. The street is much more illuminated so I can see who's walking up and down the street more clearly.
Aug. 4, 2015, 9:07 am
Jim from Cobble Hill says:
I wonder how many complaints are coming from people who might actually be UNDER 55? I am assuming not many. There really is nothing that old people won't complain about.
Aug. 4, 2015, 9:15 am
stefano G from 11206 says:
Same issue with street lighting on city highways. The new street lamps on the FDR by the UN are harsh and blinding when looked at directly . NY DOT continues using harsh cool white LED lights without any frosted glass / plexi diffuser. Also if they used warm white LED bulbs the light would be more pleasing to the eyes (you can buy warm white LED bulbs that look like conventional ones, at Ikea or Home Depot and the light feel is similar to halogen). What a disgrace that the NY DOT is turning NYC streets into a harsh, drab wasteland of bad lighting.
Aug. 4, 2015, 9:51 am
stefano G from 11206 says:
NY DOT could use reflectors or frosted diffusers to make the light source less blinding if stared directly, that would also create less harsh, less dark shadows.
Aug. 4, 2015, 9:53 am
Ed from Bay Ridge says:
I agree with Tony -- I really like these new lights.
Aug. 4, 2015, 11:46 am
John Wasserman from Prospect Heights says:

Pardon my asking, but isn't commenting and complaining about this article on the computer like this a waste of electricity? Perhaps we should charge Bay Ridge a fee for this. Something doesn't seem right here.
Aug. 4, 2015, 12:41 pm
jOEY bULACCIO from BaY rIDGE says:
If it keeps the spooks out of the 'hood, it is a most welcome addition
Aug. 5, 2015, 9:50 am
TOM from Brooklyn says:
I think we'll have to wait for autumn when the trees shed their leaves to really judge the LEDs.

How about when they reflect their light off the newly fallen snow?
Aug. 5, 2015, 11:42 am
MJ from Bay Ridge says:
some study suggests that the LED streetlight enhance the capturing of video images at night by surveillance cameras - hence easier to ID criminal activities.
Aug. 5, 2015, 8:56 pm
sg from willb. says:
NYC DOT accepts suggestions

submenu street lights / citywide
Aug. 6, 2015, 9:19 am
Phantom from Bay Ridge says:
The streets are not any brighter than before. They're noticeably less well lit.
Aug. 8, 2015, 6:37 pm
ajj from Bay Ridge says:
Pardon me John Wasserman but something doesn't seem right with you.
Aug. 17, 2015, 8:14 am
MTO from Bay Ridge says:
OH! Please pardon my pardons, but it is quite difficult to pardon PARDON ME WASSERMAN as he is wired to annoy the crap out of you! What a dull bulb! Uncle Fester, I think.NOT !
Aug. 17, 2015, 8:30 am
Guest from NYC says:
@MJ, that is incorrect. The LED lights as designed to provide sidewalk illumination as well.
Aug. 18, 2015, 4:45 pm
VY from Park Slope says:
Jim From Cobble Hill. Youth does not belong to you and when your world changes at 55, you will complain, too. That said, there are plenty of people under 55 who hate these lights. LED Streetlights are too blue rich, interrupt circadian rhythms of humans and wildlife, create 5x the light pollution and have been shown to increase crime. And Zecil Reid in the article, as long as you're not bothered, then everyone else should be okay, too?
March 4, 2017, 11:01 am

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