4TH MAGNITUDE
 -----------
 John Pazmino
 Amateur Astronomers Association
 1994 October 15
[ABSTRACTS PRESENTED AT THE ANNUAL MEETING OF THE AAVSO, OCTOBER 15, 
1994, CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS]
    The normal clear-sky transparency in the City of New York deepened 
to 4th magnitude as of 1 July 1994; the prevailing rating until then 
was 3 to 4. This darkening of the skies over New York City is the 
result of major campaigns to reduce excessive light emissions into the 
air. In the 1990s there arose several brand new schemes to further 
mitigate this emission. 
    These can be divided into three main categories; renovation of 
building frontages and facades; rebuilding of mass transit services; 
and replacement of street lighting. While the second mechanism is 
peculiar to New York City, the other two can be implemented, at a 
suitable scale, in most other towns. 
    Renovation of buildings is a continuing project driven by the need 
to improve and modernize the structures for new generations of tenants 
and visitors. In this process, obsolete and wasteful lighting is torn 
out and its emissions are permanently removed from the sky. With the 
pace and scale of rebuilding in the New York City -- it "builds" the 
equivalent of an entire Boston every decade -- the decrease in light 
emissions is rather noticeable over the years. This program is often 
combined with general beautification of the streetscape. 
    In 1990, New York City began the immense work of simply pulling 
out the old cobraheads and other obnoxious steetlights and setting 
down star-friendly ones. This started in several areas, such as Grand 
Central and Ladies Mile, and is spreading steadily over the entire 
City. As of the fall 1994 meeting, major swaths of the City are bathed 
in this new illumination. 
    The magnitude of this work boggles astronomers who visit the New 
York City! There are now more star-friendly streetlights in New York 
City than in any other town in the country, and the work continues. 
    Remaking the transit system is not a mainstream mechanism for 
improving the astronomer's lot. In fact, it is actually one of the 
most potent weapons there is, because the transit system pulls people 
from their light-spewing, sky-graying automobiles. Providing car 
drivers with reliable, quick, attractive, clean transport induces them 
to leave their star-killing cars home. 
    Projects currently underway include the total rehabilitation of 
the LIRR wing of Penn Station, groundbreaking on the New Penn Station 
and facelifts on certain subway stations. Although this method of 
light abatemant is not directly applicable elsewhere, it has been 
underway in New York City since 1990, and is the country's largest-
ever civilian public works project. 
    The reduction of excessive light emissions in New York continues 
and will enlarge as the century closes. Can it be many years until we 
see the Milky Way from Central Park?