They’re starting to see the light on Christopher St.
BY LORENZO LIGATO | Two and a half months after the survey of the lighting conditions in the Christopher St. area, the West Village neighborhood is starting to grow brighter.
As first reported in The Villager on May 17, the lighting inspection coordinated by state Senator Tom Duane identified more than 100 illumination problems in the area between W. 10th and Morton Sts. from Sixth Ave. to West St.
The problems ranged from missing, obstructed or nonfunctioning streetlights to multifamily residences lacking legally required exterior lighting.
The survey’s findings were soon transferred to the city’s Department of Transportation — the agency in charge of proper functioning of streetlights — and to the Parks Department, which is responsible for pruning any trees blocking streetlights.
The agencies, Duane observed, have begun to take action to resolve the illumination issues found in the survey. D.O.T. replaced the one streetlight that was reported completely missing and restored power to five nonfunctioning streelights in the area. D.O.T. and Con Edison are currently in the process of repairing a sixth streetlight, which is surrounded by a sidewalk shed adjacent to a construction site. Three Bishop’s Crook lightpoles — reproductions of the old-style streetlights introduced in the late 1890s — were determined to be solely ornamental, although nonilluminated.
In addition, the Parks Department, Duane said, will prune the trees found to be blocking streetlights at the start of the new fiscal year in July.
Duane also added that many of the landlords of multifamily residential properties he contacted regarding their lack of exterior lighting have taken steps to comply with the existing regulations. Even some owners of single-family residences — though exempted from the requirements — have voluntarily improved their buildings’ outdoor lighting in the interest of the neighborhood, Duane added.
“These are promising results, but we need the ongoing help of all community residents to ensure our neighborhood is as well lit as possible,” Duane said, inviting citizens to report any lighting issues to 311.
In addition, a second inspection of the lighting in Hudson River Park, from Morton St. to Charles St., was sponsored by Duane and his staff members. Duane said he’s collaborating with the Hudson River Park Trust to ensure that all park light fixtures are illuminated from sunset to sunrise.
The Christopher St. survey followed a series of meetings between Duane and neighborhood stakeholders to respond to a spike in violent incidents in the area in recent years. Yet, despite the senator’s efforts, many residents and visitors said the changes implemented since the mid-March inspection haven’t met their expectations.
George Forbes, executive director of the Lucille Lortel Theatre, at 121 Christopher St., said he hasn’t seen much improvement since the survey, though he admitted there are some complicating factors.
“We realize that as a mixed-use street with commercial and residential tenants, it is difficult to strike a balance regarding lighting,” he said. “Some of the West Village’s charm is in walking down dimly lit streets versus the harsh lights of Times Square, for example.”
Forbes, who has worked with the Lucille Lortel Foundation since 1989, said that around 15 years ago they installed high-efficiency lighting under the theater’s marquee, as well as in the entrance to the adjoining alley. After these steps, he noted, the theater saw a significant reduction of graffiti on its front exterioor and a general improvement of conditions in the alley.
“Given our experience with adding external lighting to our building, I do feel that increasing the overall illumination in the area would be an improvement to the street,” Forbes said. “It would make our patrons feel safer, reduce criminal mischief and generally improve the quality of life on the street.”