The Newtown Pentacle

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Posts Tagged ‘LED lamps

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Consarned and new fangled gizmos – in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

My pal Kevin Walsh of Forgotten-NY is the lamp post guy. You will tremble in your boots when he begins discussing “luminaires” and other mechanistic implementations designed to light the streets of the City of Greater New York. Saying that, here on Broadway in Astoria (and along 34th avenue) between Steinway and 48th street, the inestimable NYC DOT has recently installed the latest generation of street lighting – which are LED fixtures that replace the familiar sodium lighting which has long punctured the sepulchral darkness of Gotham.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

At the start of December, work crews from Weisbach – DOT’s contractor for all things electrical – were observed on the throroughfare in a “cherry picker” truck swapping out the old school sodium lights for the new LED ones. According to official sources “NYC DOT operates the largest municipal street-lighting system in the country, with 262,000 lights on City streets, bridges and underpasses, 12,000 in parks and 26,000 on highways,” and the City plans on replacing every single one of them with the new LED lights.

The effort is expected to reduce the amount (and cost) of electricity consumed in pursuit of lighting the streets by a significant amount, as well as reforming the “carbon footprint” of the municipality. It’s costing us tax payers about $75 million smackers to change out every light, but is expected to save about $6 million a year in energy costs.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

As you’d imagine, the gentry here in Astoria have been busy debating the relative merits of the new lighting. On the plus side, the LED’s produce a brighter light which is quite a bit “whiter” than the old sodium lamps. The actual color of the light is 4300 Kelvin, which is quite a bit “bluer” than the sodium lamps which produced the familiar (and warmer) orange yellow light that all New Yorkers are used to suffering in. The LED light is quite a bit better focused on the street itself, and from a photographic point of view – has brightened things up by around two stops.

Observation and conversation, however, have revealed that the new lights create quite a bit of glare. I wear glasses, so… bother.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Non empirically speaking, the sodium lamps scattered their light in a globe of illumination whereas the newer lights are a bit more like a reading lamp in design. Drivers have reported to me that on rainy nights the new lights create a problem for them, windshield glare wise, but nothing insurmountable. There’s also people who just don’t like the new color.

Most of Astoria’s Broadway community seems fairly ambivalent/positive about the change, as a note, offering “why would I care, what can you do about it?” as a response to queries such as “what do you think about the new street lights?”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

There are all sorts of theories on the effects which LED lighting on human perception. Like the shutter of a motion picture projector, the LED’s flicker at a rate which is just outside of normal human perception. Some say that the flicker induces a state of anxiety to the sensitive, but truth be told, I’ve tried to capture it using video capture and have been unable to perceive anything other than steady illumination – no strobing, in other words.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

On the plus side, the directed light is no longer illuminating the residential windows along Broadway, and since I live along the street – I can report that at night my windows are considerably darker than they used to be under the old sodium lights. Additionally, the streets and particularly the sidewalks seem considerably and perceptually brighter.

Everything you could possibly want to know about the new LED lights is answered by this PDF at

– photo by Mitch Waxman

You can discern the different temperatures of the two lighting systems in the shot above. The avenue (Broadway) is lit by the new and bluish LED’s and the street (44th) by the older and orange sodium light system.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

January 7, 2016 at 11:00 am

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