Monthly Archives: May 2010

Newburyport, Turning Off Street Lights–Constructive Alternatives

It appears to me that if the city does decide to turn off Newburyport Street lights, residents and citizens have choices.

One is a short term solution, and the second is a more longer term, creative and very exciting alternative.

The short term solution for residents and citizens would be, if they wanted to, to adopt or sponsor a street light. Initial information for adopting a street light can be read here.

A more long term solution would be to work with the Newburyport Planning Office, the Newburyport Historical Commission, architects, professional exterior urban lighting designers as well as environmental experts. The model for this solution would be Light Boston. The goal would to have a vibrantly and creatively lit night time downtown as well as creatively lit streetscapes that would also address environmental concerns.

Light Boston, the model for a long term solution, supports the passage of Dark Sky legislation, which among other things, addresses the issue of “light pollution.” Light Boston’s goal is to reduce energy consumption, eliminate high glare and spill light, promote energy conservation and enhance environmental quality of life. All of these things are also the goals of Newburyport’s Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC).

Light Boston has the enthusiastic backing of Mayor Thomas Menino. And their goals would address concerns of business, residents and citizens of Newburyport, making Newburyport an even better place to live work and play.

“Many architecturally and historically significant public and private buildings, numerous monuments and parks, and lively streetscapes help define the City of Boston. However, many downtown and neighborhood areas of the city lack urban legibility at night which diminishes residents’ and visitors’ enjoyment of the social and aesthetic quality of the city, creates safety concerns and inhibits economic vitality.

Light Boston is the leading organization in the city working to address this issue through imaginative, effective, and environmentally responsible exterior lighting. Exterior lighting can be used as an effective urban planning tool to:

  • Enhance social activity and economic growth by extending city life for residents and tourists into the evening and night
  • Improve the aesthetics and urban legibility of the city
  • Contribute to public safety
  • Highlight and complement Boston’s unique urban environment

By advocating for illumination as a vital component of urban design, Light Boston seeks to encourage interest, understanding, and appreciation of the city’s unique historic and cultural heritage.”

From Light Boston’s website.

Newburyport Turning Off Street Lights and Adopt a Light

I called Kim Schneider at National Grid and asked her about their policy of private citizens “sponsoring” street lights, if the city of Newburyport actually does come to the conclusion to turn off street lights.

(“Phase 1″ of the plan to turn off street lights would be to turn off 510 street lights, but if there is a “phase 1,” I am assuming that their would be a “phase 2.”

The Energy Advisory Committee (EAC) has an audit of proposed street lights to be turned off in Newburyport. The list is extensive.

The complete Excel data sheet from the EAC of the proposed lights to be turned off can be downloaded here.

A shorter version (shortened by me) of the Excel data sheet, that is easier to read and has basic information, can be downloaded here.)*

What I was told was that Newburyport’s street lights are owned and maintained by National Grid. The city is the client. And that any citizen can “adopt” a street light.

“My” street light is 50 watts and would cost $12 a month to “sponsor” or “adopt.”

If the city does decide to go through with shutting off street lights, I may not only adopt “my” street light, but many of the neighborhood street lights. The one neighbor that I have talked seemed to be relieved and liked the idea of going in on the initiative, if it actually comes to that.

I was told that we are in the New England North division. The number there is 978-725-1015. I would get a recording, but to ask for the “Street Lighting Specialist,” about adopting a light, and that they would call me back.

*(The criteria for keeping street lights on are 1) marked crosswalks (not places where streets intersect and people cross the street), actual painted lines, 2) Busy areas, 3) Speed limit over 30 mph, 4) Dangerous conditions. At the end of the data sheet you will see those 4 criteria and then a “Y” (yes, shut off) or a “N” (not shut off). The list of streets and some addresses are at the beginning of the data sheet.)

Newburyport, Extreme Green and Light Boston

Gillian Stewart in her recent blog post coined a phrase that I had never heard before, “Extreme Green.”

And that sort of sums it up for me. I find that I am unable to have a conversation with many of Newburyport’s Green community (not all), because I feel as if, if I don’t agree with them, I’m a bad person, uninformed, unaware, oblivious, uncaring. This does not work for me.

Newburyport’s Energy Advisory Committee (EAC) has come up with an audit of street lights that are proposed to be turned off. The list is extensive.

For more information and to download the list, which is on an Excel data sheet, press here.

And in my walks and talks with people about the issue of turning off street lights in Newburyport, someone told me about “Light Boston,” which I did not know about.

These are a few quotes from Light Boston’s website. All of these quotes could be applicable to Newburyport, another walkable, historic city, one that I also think of as “A city set on a hill.”

“By increasing lighting in Boston, we can extend our welcome to tourists and enhance the quality of life for all those who enjoy our walkable city. I hope you will support this important Light Boston, Inc. initiative to light up the city.” Thomas M. Menino, Mayor, City of Boston

“Many architecturally and historically significant public and private buildings, numerous monuments and parks, and lively streetscapes help define the City of Boston. However, many downtown and neighborhood areas of the city lack urban legibility at night which diminishes residents’ and visitors’ enjoyment of the social and aesthetic quality of the city, creates safety concerns and inhibits economic vitality.
Light Boston is the leading organization in the city working to address this issue through imaginative, effective, and environmentally responsible exterior lighting. Exterior lighting can be used as an effective urban planning tool to:

  • Enhance social activity and economic growth by extending city life for residents and tourists into the evening and night
  • Improve the aesthetics and urban legibility of the city
  • Contribute to public safety
  • Highlight and complement Boston’s unique urban environment

By advocating for illumination as a vital component of urban design, Light Boston seeks to encourage interest, understanding, and appreciation of the city’s unique historic and cultural heritage.”

“Improving nighttime environments benefits all of our residents and helps address safety concerns while increasing civic pride in local landmarks.”

Newburyport–List of Proposed Street Lights to be Turned Off

The Energy Advisory Committee (EAC) has a list of proposed street lights to be turned off in Newburyport, MA. The list is extensive.

Some of those street lights, I do not know which ones, are already in the proposed city budget. This I did not know.

The complete Excel data sheet from the EAC of the proposed lights to be turned off can be downloaded here

A shorter version (shortened by me) of the Excel data sheet, that is easier to read and has basic information, can be downloaded here

(The criteria for keeping street lights on are 1) marked crosswalks (not places where streets intersect and people cross the street), actual painted lines, 2) Busy areas, 3) Speed limit over 30 mph, 4) Dangerous conditions. At the end of the data sheet you will see those 4 criteria and then a “Y”; (yes, shut off) or a “N”; (not shut off). The list of streets and some addresses are at the beginning of the data sheet.)

On the audit, not only are neighborhoods dark, but large areas of High Street, Water Street, Liberty Street, State Street. I counted 10 decorative historic street lights on State Street that are recommended to be turned off. And there is a question about whether (13 decorative historic lights/lamps around the Green Street Parking Lot and 18 decorative historic lights/lamps a around the Playground) a total of 31 historic lights/lamps on Inn Street should be turned off, and about whether 14 historic lights/lamps on Market Square should be turned off. It’s on the list, I’m not making this up.

If you have a problem with this audit, and a recommendation that is already in the budget about street lights in Newburyport being turned off, please contact Mayor Donna Holaday, Newburyport City Councilors and write a Letter to the Editor at the Newburyport Daily News.

Mayor Donna Holaday’s contact information:
mayor@cityofnewburyport.com
Newbuyrport City Hall
60 Pleasant Street, Newburyport, MA 01950
978-465-4413

Contact information for the Newburyport City Council can be found here.

If you are unsure of what your Newburyport City Councilor looks like, press here.

If you wish to email a Letter to the Editor at the Newburyport Daily News contact:
Merrily Buchs
mbuchs@newburyportnews.com

Newburyport–Turning Off Street Lights

Yesterday I did some research on turning off street lights. What I found is that towns and cities all over America and in Europe are turning off street lights to save money. Sometimes environmental issues are sited, as in Newburyport’s proposal, often it seems citizens are given a choice between turning off street lights and higher taxes.

I had a long and constructive correspondence and conversation with one of Newburyport’s Energy Advisory Committee (EAC). They graciously emailed me a copy of the lights that are proposed to be shut off in Newburyport, MA (it is public record).

The complete Excel data sheet can be downloaded here.

A shorter version (shortened by me) of the Excel data sheet, that is easier to read and has basic information, can be downloaded here.

Seeing the list, which is extensive, my reaction was one of shock. Basically Newburyport’s neighborhoods would be dark.

When I called the member of the EAC, my concern to them was that when people understood the extent of the proposal, the reaction could be so strong and visceral, an instinct to protect family and property, that a constructive dialogue might not be possible. That the whole process could turn into a destructive experience, not unlike many in Newburyport that I have seen. They understood and agreed, and for that I give them a great deal of credit.

The criteria for keeping street lights on are 1) marked crosswalks (not places where streets intersect and people cross the street), actual painted lines, 2) Busy areas, 3) Speed limit over 30 mph, 4) Dangerous conditions (how this criteria was defined, I forgot to ask, from my experience, unfortunately, a great deal of Newburyport’s sidewalks are hazards). At the end of the data sheet you will see those 4 criteria and then a “Y” (yes, shut off) or a “N” (not shut off). The list of streets and some addresses are at the beginning of the data sheet.

As I understand it, the EAC has been working on this proposal to turn off Newburyport’s street lights for a year, working with volunteers, including Newburyport High School’s Environmental Club. My understanding is that this list is still a work in progress.

Newburyport–Turning Off Street Lights–Not Such a Bright Idea

When I read the proposal by the Energy Advisory Committee to turn off 30% of Newburyport’s Street lights in the Newburyport Daily News yesterday, my reaction was not unlike my first sighting of Newburyport’s Wind Turbine, which as I recall, was to give it the finger.

It made me so angry, that I decided to sleep on the information before writing a post that could be full of expletives. (The working headline for this post yesterday was “Turning Off Newburyport Street Lights–A Really Stupid Idea.” The title has been toned down somewhat.)

I grew up in New York City. One of the frustrating things about living in New York City was that it was not safe to go out after dark– i.e. big time for crime and muggings.

One of the things that I really love about our small, coastal New England city is that it is safe and fun to walk around the city after dark (which living in New England often occurs as early as 4:00 PM).

The city since I moved here almost 3 decades ago, has become a growingly safer place to live (I definitely would not have walked around certain areas after dark). And yes, Newburyport has become more affluent, but that does not necessarily mean less crime, especially if you turn out 30% of the street lights. Good grief. Certain visitors from out of town (I spot them often in Newburyport, MA, they stick out big time) do break into cars and homes. How much easier would it be to do so on nice darkened residential streets.

And, we are a “smart growth city,” i.e. we are encouraged to try and bike and walk in our walkable city. Hard to do so if the streets are dark. And as I said before, certain times of year it gets dark as early as 4:00 PM.

Hello.

If the Energy Advisory Committee would like us to be “green” as far as street lights go, how about thinking about solar street lights.

Expensive you ask? Yes, but some of our US cities have done so with Federal grant money.

The city of Louisville Kentucky purchased its equipment from a grant to the Partnership for a Green City, from the United States Department of Energy.

The town of Dania, Florida’s solar street lights were funded by a grant from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Hurricane proof no less and no problem with power outages.

I’m all for green, but I’m not for green and stupid.