Proposal Seeks to Dim NYC Skyline at Night to Save Energy

A mostly illuminated One World Trade Center towers over the lower Manhattan skyline this month. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
A mostly illuminated One World Trade Center towers over the lower Manhattan skyline this month. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Bright lights, big city?

Not so much, if a New York City council member gets his way.

Councilman Donovan Richards Jr. has introduced a bill requiring most office high-rises to turn off the lights at night as a way to cut energy costs and help migratory birds. And it might even give New Yorkers a chance to see some stars other than the celebrities walking down the street.

“We need to be doing everything we can to conserve energy,” Richards said. “This is a commonsense measure. It’s not going to cost anybody a lot of money.”

Seventy-one percent of New Yorkers like the idea, according to a Quinnipiac poll released Thursday. But the bill, one of the first in the city focusing on what supporters call “light pollution,” is causing concern among some residents who worry that dimming the lights could make the city less safe and dampen its signature sparkle.

For Joyetta McCullen, who lives in Brooklyn, the lights are part of what makes her city special, even though she has often wondered why buildings keep all their lights on at night when there’s no one working.

“I’m 25, lived in New York all my life, that’s all I saw,” she said, “lights and noise.”

Richards’ proposal is aimed at commercial buildings at least 20 stories high, and requires them to turn off the lights after midnight if no one is inside. It would exempt landmarks, such as the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building, as well as the city’s brightest nighttime tourist draw, Times Square.

Richards said he was inspired in part by a trip to Paris last year. The City of Light has had office and shop buildings turning off their lights at night for the past couple of years. And if Paris can do it, he said, New York City can, too.

“We should be the world leader for conservation,” he said.

At a hearing on the measure last month, critics raised issues of safety, and whether the law would just add more onerous regulations for building owners and the potential for fines.

The Daily News was even stronger in an editorial headlined: “We’ll not go gentle: Keep New York City’s nighttime skyline bright and beautiful.”

Utility company Consolidated Edison said it was reviewing the proposal.