NEW LIGHTING FOR NEW ENGLAND -------------------------- John Pazmino NYSkies Astronomy Inc email@example.com www.nyskies.org 1998 August 1
introduction ---------- Patricia Jackson and I attended the annual meeting of NELPAG, New England Light Pollution Advisory Group, on 1998 June 5 Saturday in New Haven CT. It convened in the geology hall of Yale University, next to the Peabody Museum from 10:30 EDST thru about 15:45. Patricia was, before joining the [Amateur Astronomers] Association in 1998 May, concerned about brightskies and already corresponded with NELPAG. Thru her I got the interest up to come with her. After the meeting she supplied comments and corrections for this article. From emails with NELPAG's chair Robert Crelin I brought the set of light pollution boards the Association displayed at the Northeast Astronomy Forum and the Annual Business Meeting, both in May. Being this was my own first time to NELPAG I figured on setting up the posters and let the auditorium view them during breaks and lunch. Then I would take in the procedings as a spectator.
Invite to speak ------------- But Crelin, knowing generally of the massive success in erasing excess illumination from the air over the City asked if I could elaborate on the posters with a slidetalk! The posters cover a wide variety of strategies in New York; I focused one one aspect, the replacement of the streetlights in Herald Square. So I threw together a tray of slides, packed some Association litterature, and met Ms Jackson at Grand Central Terminal. At the sunrise hour of 06:48, our train nudged out of the station and soon was clipping along into New England. We can't say much about the ride because we, still groggy, napped all the way to New Haven. Lucky for us that station is the end of the line. The conductor bellowed out that the train is laying up in the yards. So we better get off.
to New Haven ---------- We took breakfast at a coffee counter in the station while waiting for Crelin to pick us up by car. The station was totally refurbished about five years ago as part of Amtrak's modernization scheme in the Northeast Corridor. Part of the works was a restored existing station while others were futuristic. Crelin arrived quite at 09:20 and we rode twoish kilometers to the meeting. A few other delegates were there with others continually arriving. By 10:00 essentially all expected participants were present, 16 in all. The major contingent missing the meeting was Dr Daniel Green and several others from Cambridge MA. Crelin explained that Green was ill currently and he may have held off from coming. The meeting opened at 10:30 without these folk.
Delegates ------- Alth the convention was specifically for New England, Jackson and I were handsomely welcomed from the Association and two others represented the Westchester (NY) Amateur Astronomers. The remaining attendees came from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. None showed up from New Hampshire, Vermont, or Maine. The meeting room was in two parts. The larger front section was fitted with a parallel row of conference tables and chairs, a slide projector, and a viewgraph projector. The rear section had tables for exhibits and litterature. Here I set up the posters, a set of four leaned against the wall; I didn't need any of the masking tape I brought with me. The other exhibits were props for lighting fixtures, a poster of the night view of the US from a satellite, and catalogs of lighting devices from various companies.
Bob Crelin -------- There were three main presentations, each with lively discussion. Bob Crelin's talk, with slides and viewgraphs, covered examples of atrocious lighting in southern Connecticut. He lives in Branford and works with the New Haven Astronomical Society. He illustrated the usual abuses of lights such as misaimed floodlights, overly brilliant streetlamps, and dazzling spotlights. The scenes could have been from just about any suburban or rural district in the country. The other delegates supplied by comment examples of similarly awful cases in their own districts. He explained the gradually notching up of general illumination as stores vie against each other for attracting attention. In this game each new store in a development puts up a brighter sign than those of the existing stores. The result is a daytime glow over the cluster of stores; dazzled eyes for motorists; and a jailyard mishmash of shadows, hotspots, and beams.
United Illuminating Company -------------------------- Bob Crelin demonstrated a really hideous practice. The local utility, United Illuminating Company based in New Haven, offers a floodlighting service. For a suitable fee it attaches on its own poles a humongous floodlamp to aim at a customer's property. The lamp has so wide a range cone that much of the luminous flux spills over and around the property and illumes several blocks. Of particular danger is the sudden blast of this light in the eyes of motorists approaching the property. Nothing can be seen in the road during the many seconds of dazzled vision. I, as a former utility engineer, find this truly queer. The enlightened[!] electric power company today plain does not egg on its customers to so recklessly waste energy. It seems that there are a few companies still stuck in an era long ago thrown on the trash heap of history.
Miracle on 34th Street -------------------- My own talk, titled 'Miracle on 34th Street', was a beefed up version of the one I presented to AAVSO in 1995. I photoessayed the lamppoles in the Herald Square district during my lunchtime wanderings being that my office is near the Square on 34th Street. I time stepped from the marking out of the pavement for the new fixtures to the coupling of the lamps to the electric mains. Then I presented the miracle with a slide of the 'Miracle' shop on 34th Street. (This store is no longer; it closed in late 1997.) Evening comes, the sky darkens, and the new illumination turns on. I took the auditorium on a 'walk' thru the area at night to inspect the new lighting on stores and large buildings. Examples ranged from the tiny trinket stands and newsstands thru ordinary stores and eateries. Then we passed by gigantic structures with the new starsafe lighting such as Macy's department store, Penn Plaza tower, Madison Square Garden, and New Penn Station. I pointed out that for some many years in the City obnoxious and offensive lighting is essentially banned. This flows from the regulations enforced by the betterment committees and the municipal quality-of-life laws. As for legacy lighting, there really isn't any. Outdoor structures as a matter of course are rebuilt within three to five years anyway. The new lights conform to the modern starsafe standards. The talk closed with a stop at the first International Darksky Shrine, a monster K-Mart in Penn Plaza with many starsafe features.
Harvey Hutchinson --------------- After lunch, Harvey "Hutch" Hutchinson of Lithonia Lighting Company reviewed the new order for nighttime illumination as practiced by utilities and lamp companies. His firm in Connecticut is a subsidiary of the electric utility company in northern Georgia near Atlanta. He emphasized that for many years the arts and science of lighting have steadily improved. Designs considered normal three decades ago are now deprecated today. Glare or spillage accepted back then is now intolerable. "Hutch" explained that many of the new precepts of lighting derive from recent advances in optical physiology and social psychology, as well as from the federal mandate under ADA. He noted that outdoor installations, being open to weather and accidents and vandalism, will eventually be replaced. The replacement illumination will adhere to the current star-friendly standards. Depending on the facility, the lifespan ranges from five to fifteen years. Hence, even if nothing else is done vast reductions in excess light thrown into the sky will be realized by the end of the first decade of the new century.
Short presentations ----------------- There were several short presentations from many delegates. Dr Arthur Upgren, Wesleyan Uv, told of his efforts to have a bridge in Middletown CT lit with tracer lamps rather than the proposed grossly offensive floodlights. Jules Granata detailed how he in his security light business promotes no-glare lights. Such fixtures allow witnesses and police to comfortably inspect the lighted scene while preventing criminals from hiding in deep shadows or blinding glare. Justine Gillen, councilwoman for Branford CT, explained her proposed zoning amendments for nighttime lights in the town. Copies of the plan were on hand at the literature table.
Stargazing -------- Three major features of this meeting should go down in the darksky annals. First was the lack of emphasis on stargazing as the motivation for improving outdoor lighting. No one whined about missing that ultrafaint galaxy because of the sky whitening truck stop up the pike. No one bitched about some observatory's loss of critical research due to a nearby trashlighted office tower. This I believe comes from the real fundamental rationale for good lighting. Good lighting is a derivative of good civilization. Period. Of course, stargazing reaps the benefit as a collateral bonus. In short, there was nothing of the 'San Diego' syndrome at this NELPAG conference.
Monochrome mantra --------------- A second major advance was the junking of the fanaticism for monochromatic lamps. These were the spam of the early years of the darksky movement, forced into every conversation on light pollution. The trick was that if the illumination was of a single (or a few) wavelength, that light could be filtered out at the telescope. Thus a darksky could be realized; the starlight would lack just the one wavelength blocked by the filter. It quickly was cruelly realized among stargazers that essentially no one ever closed this loop and acquired the necessary filters! And those who did get them used them only for specific occasions. Hence, the town suffered under 'bug lamps' while the stargazer still peered thru a bright -- tho wonderfully monochrome -- sky. In the face of this shameful fact, current darksky agitators no longer chant the monochrome mantra. The emphasis is on promoting the shielded, tightly aimed, carefully placed lamps of contemporary star friendly style. In fact, the newer physiology studies call for illumination closer to solar or lunar for discerning safety and security hazards at night.
Let's go, metrics! ---------------- Thirdly, the delegates exuded a complete comfort with metrics. While oldstyle measures are still prevalent, the conversations were even handedly laced with metrics. No one pleaded for a conversion back to oldstyle. Dr Upgren noted that the oldstyle 'foot-candle' is substantially equal to 10 lux, or lumen per square meter. This comes from the happy fact that one square meter is so closely ten square feet. He suggested that in view of the errors already embedded in lighting measurements that the 'foot-candle' be simply the vernacular term for 10 lux, or one dekalux. It would join the 'acre' of 4,000m2 and the 'ton' of 1,000Kg.
Conclusion -------- Due to the late start and the extensive crosstalk all thru the meeting we adjourned at 15:45. Patricia and I helped clean up the rooms and carry materials to Crelin's car. He took us to the station where we boarded the 16:57 train back to New York. This time we were quick and vivid. We admired the railworks underway for American Flyer. This is 'Son of Metroliner' extended to Boston. The whole road is under majestic rehab to receive the 200KPH railliners in fall of 1999. When we stepped from the platform at Grand Central into the main concourse, there above us was the just-cleaned-up celestial ceiling. Within the darksky movement this largest of starmaps in human history is a living totem for the real stars in the sky over the City.