earth_lights_nasa.jpgThe Times has an interesting story about one person's battle against light pollution. Susan Harder has been fighting against excessive and poorly designed lighting for the past several years. Her saga began when St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery installed floodlights in an attempt to prevent assaults and robberies in the church's graveyard. Three of the floodlights shined directly into Harder's apartment, in which no assaults or robberies were taking place.

Since that time Harder has educated herself on the intricacies of electric lighting and lobbied Albany for legislation to control exterior lighting levels. It is claimed that excessive lighting wastes energy, adversely affects health, disrupts ecosystems, interferes with ground-based astronomy, and reduces safety. Harder has had some success in getting legislation passed on Long Island, but the city's Department of Transportation strongly opposes light-limiting measures. Steven Galgano, executive director of the DoT's Traffic Operations division goes as far as saying any street lighting designs by dark-sky advocates are "unacceptable", because they often leave dark patches between bright spots versus the uniform blanket of light currently created.

The other dark-sky opponents are the city's many business improvement districts, claiming the lights make the city safer. The International Dark-Sky Association, however, says that there is no clear relationship between lighting and crime.

Some egregious examples of excessive lighting pointed out by Harder include a "cluster glare bomb" at 7th Ave and 36th Street and the "Obi-Wan Kenobi swords" lining lower Broadway. A business down the street from Gothamist's apartment uses an enormous floodlight to shine on a small banner. Do you have examples of excess lighting or floodlights pointing skyward in your neighborhood?

Earth's lights at night image from NASA.