The Manhattan skyline currently boasts the wattage of a million stars, but a new City Council bill may require it to dim on behalf of the environment. But the question of what to light and what not to light was the primary point of contention at a hearing held on Wednesday, the Times reports.
“The mandate to curate, if you will, the skyline of the city of New York is not something the commission does currently,” Mark Silberman, general counsel for the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, said during what sounds like a rather involved discussion that invoked, among other things, physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and "the very definition of nighttime."
Those opposed to the Great Dimming expressed concerns about safety, though the bill would exempt buildings people are actually using overnight, in addition to notable structures like the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building.
Still, “security cameras would be useless in the dark, and police officers would no longer peek into darkened stores at night,” said Jay M. Peltz, general counsel for the Food Industry Alliance of New York State.
Councilman Donovan Richards Jr., the bill's lead sponsor, was from the sound of it having a delightful time making his case, cracking wise and arguing that artificial light was damaging Manhattan's fragile ecosystem, which apparently boasts the biodiversity of a pristine rainforest. From the paper of record: "Artificial light can deter nesting female sea turtles, Richards said, and interfere with the habits of hatchlings. Monarch butterflies grow disoriented. Male blackbirds fail to develop reproductive organs."
“Frogs stopped mating activity during night football games when lights from a nearby stadium increased sky glow," he added.
The bill could impact as many as 40,000 buildings, though it's unclear just how much energy would be saved. If passed, violators could be fined $1,000.