Having attended trustee meetings in the Village of Great Neck about the coming of the 4000k LED bare bulbs to our village streets, having read some research and read my fellow residents’ letters to the local newspapers, and having experienced the LED streetlights at my home, I have come to the conclusion that cheering on the mayor and the LEDs is like applauding the coming of a tsunami.
We have long thought that light at night by artificial means was beneficial as well as benign. But no more.
Light at night disrupts sleep and our biological clock. The American Medical Association (AMA) issued a statement that “some LED lights are harmful when used as streetlights” and recommends that LEDs be no greater than 3000k. Last year, Harvard researchers found that “exposure to residential outdoor light at night may contribute to invasive breast cancer risk.” You are welcome to do all the reading yourself.
The city of Davis, CA, having installed 4000k bulbs throughout the city, faced an uprising of residents that caused the replacement of the 4000k with 2700k at a cost of $350,000. The residents had experienced the lights and learned quickly the immediate and potential debits, the nature of streetlights at night with their injurious blue-violet spectrum.
On Dec. 1, 2017, a workman hammered a new light fixture, called a cobra, into place on the pole in front of my house and a cobra on the pole immediately next door—two in close proximity and each with a bare 4000k bulb. The mayor had promised the lights would shine only downward in what he called a narrowly focused cone.
Through the month of December and into January, the company under contract to the Village of Great Neck would finish installing LED lights on about 145 streets in the village, 825 lights, to replace the carriage streetlamps that have graced our village for as long as I can remember.
Those incandescent carriage lights were never party to a car accident, never the culprit for pedestrian injury, never contributed to vehicular damage and bodily harm. Nonetheless, the mayor invoked “safety” as the reason for ridding our streets of the incandescent light fixtures and bringing in the cobras. He said, loosely, there were many accidents in our village attributable to the incandescent carriage lights, but at the Board of Trustees meeting on Feb. 6, the mayor amended his “many” to “two.” I asked him for date, day and time of day. The mayor said he did not have that information.
At the meetings of the Board of Trustees I have attended, the mayor defends the high-intensity LED streetlights in our village (population 10,000) by invoking their prevalence in hospital operating theaters, a ludicrous comparison. He draws a parallel to their use in New York City (population 8½ million), where many residents dwell above the streetlights.
In public sessions of the Board of Trustees, the mayor promised that the new LED bulbs would light the roadway only, but that night, that first night, and every night since then, the twin LEDs in front of my house light the interior of my home all night long.
The light begins at the road, as anyone can see, making it an eerie daylight. The light spreads across the expanse of my front lawn and enters my glass-enclosed front porch, bathing it in light.
From the porch, the light seeps through the panes of glass on the upper half of my front door and, uninvited, enters my home through the main front entrance. The light shines on the banister rails and the steps of the staircase leading to the second floor.
Through the entrance to the house by way of the kitchen, the light from the street casts itself along the kitchen wall and across the kitchen table.
The new LED streetlights apply a glow to all the front windows of my home. The light permeates the heavy shades on the living room windows and all the windows along the sides of my house, front to back.
Improbably, those LED bare bulbs on the street illuminate the rear windows and make the rear yard visible at night, something whose implications are even more troubling: The sky above the village seems never dark.
Before the LEDs, at night, the second-floor bathroom of my home needed a night light in anticipation of middle-of-the-night movements by my young granddaughters. Now, with the coming of the mayor’s 4000k LEDs, the bathroom is lit from the street, the light infiltrating through a double layer, a shade and a curtain. In the adjacent children’s bedroom, the windows glow.
On that first night, Dec. 1, in that first appearance of light at midnight, I wondered, if I sat on the swing on my front porch at 4 a.m., would I be able to read a book by the light from the street?
When the subject of converting our lights was new on the mayor’s agenda, I asked the mayor at a Board of Trustees’ meeting to send the village residents a postcard letting us all know he was contemplating a life-changing conversion of the lights on all of our streets. “This is a decision that will have a profound impact on every resident,” I said.
The mayor refused to send the postcard. He said residents have ample opportunity to read the local newspapers and the village website. I reminded him that before he was elected, he, himself, did not read the local press and did not read the village website, so his deflection was thin indeed.
Two years earlier when he took office, this mayor also discontinued the village newsletter that had been mailed to our homes. As for hearing from residents, the mayor controls the printed agenda for the trustees’ meetings, and that agenda has no category titled Correspondence and does not list letters written by residents, as other municipalities do.
So with no newsletter, no postcard and no correspondence on the village meeting agenda, when this mayor claims “everyone is happy with the lights,” he is posturing.
There was no pilot program. There was no examination of the spacing between poles that were put in place somewhat randomly during much of the last century. There was an indifference to, a disinterest in, the impact of these exterior lights on the interior lives and health of the village residents. The idea was botched from the start, handled irresponsibly. The decision-making by the Board of Trustees was high-handed and insular. There was no participatory democracy.
The mayor disparaged the AMA (listen to the tapes of the meetings) and swatted aside information about the potential biological cost of high intensity lighting at night. The mayor shouted down a doctor, who specializes in sleep studies, in an attempt to derail the information the doctor was offering. In silence, the mayor and the other trustees tolerated the presentation of information by Grassroots Environmental Education.
In almost any other venue, the medical research would have aroused a groundswell of questions. Here, the medical consequences of the LED night lights were of no interest to the five-member board on behalf of the rest of us.
It would be fair to say this mayor has perfected the appearance of listening without intending to hear. Dr. Shine, a longtime superintendent of our Great Neck schools and an acknowledged intellect, once told me this anecdote: There was a principal of a school who was fond of saying to parents, “My door is always open.” After he’d been in his job for a while, on a day when he uttered his truism to yet another parent, the parent replied, “Yes, but what good is an open door to a closed mind?”
What we do know is the mayor contracted with a Canadian company for our village to be “a pilot program,” for our village to host the intense 4,000 kelvin bulbs with the blue-violet spectrum that promises a future price to our health.
The proper recourse is to replace the 4000k bulbs with 2100k, 2300k, 2700k, with a warmer light at less expense. Otherwise, I, myself, want the cobra light in front of my house removed, because were the mayor to dim the intensity of the light (from a control panel in village hall), the dimming, as residents have been told, will be only temporary.
Mayor Pedram Bral has no streetlight at all on the cul-de-sac where he lives, and Trustee Anne Mendelson has no streetlight in front of her home or across the street, but they gave these lights to the rest of us.
Here, in our village, an owner of a private home should not have to entomb the interior of the residence in blackout shades as if this is World War II in London at the height of the blitz. A homeowner should not be forced to incur that expense in order to remain healthy.
My private home should not have to defend itself against the whims and depredations of local government.
The LED 4000k are a colossal mistake and pose harm to every man, woman and child who lives in our village, the plants in our gardens and our pets. The blue-violet spectrum is ever-present because the lights are not under our control and we cannot turn them off. So they need to be gone.