Great Neck trustees hear LED lights plan

Janelle Clausen
Judy Shore Rosenthal and Amy Glass, Great Neck residents, present their case against LED street lights to the Village of Great Neck Board of Trustees on March 21, 2017. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

The Village of Great Neck plans to move forward with the installation of new LED street lights despite concerns from some residents about their health effects.

At a meeting Tuesday night, the Board of Trustees and many residents expressed support for the project, citing decreased lighting costs and a need to embrace new LED, or light-emitting diode, technology.

Village Clerk-Treasurer Joe Gill said the new lights will bring savings of 50 to 60 percent on lighting costs, which reach $175,000 per year between electricity and maintenance.

“It’s incumbent upon myself, the board and the mayor to look at the expenses and make sure we’re getting the most bang for the taxpayer buck,” Gill said in an interview before the meeting.

“We’re not trying to be brighter; we’re trying to be more efficient,” he added.

The village is currently in the pre-bid stage, meaning officials are open to residents’ input before issuing two separate bids for the purchase of the fixtures and the installation.

Scott Vokey, director of government relations and community solutions for RealTerm Energy, the company planning the village’s light installation, said the firm has mapped out an asset inventory of the village. It is a street-by-street analysis taking fixture types, wattage, height, poles, traffic conditions and other factors into consideration.

“Essentially, we’re going to make sure that our robust photometric design and installation mitigates any light trespass or glare issues,” Vokey said.

While many supported the project, some Great Neck residents protested that the lights could be a health hazard.

“We surely won’t give up our computers, our smartphones and our flat screen TVs, but do we need additional blue light exposure from our village street lamps?” said Judy Shore Rosenthal, a longtime critic of LED lighting. “This discussion brings us here today.”

Rosenthal and Amy Glass, another critic, cited studies suggesting that prolonged exposure can lead to sleep cycle disruption and retinal damage.

Dimming the lights would also not be a solution, Rosenthal said, because then the process of “flicker” can lead to issues like headaches and even seizures.

“We’re talking daily damage over months and years,” Glass said.

But officials said those studies likely refer more to the extensive use of cellphones and computers than contact with LED street lighting, and that any reading can be bent to reinforce one’s perception.

“You can’t go based on a few studies. You have to go based on what’s real,” said Mayor Pedram Bral, who is also a physician. “What is real is most places in the world are using LED lights.”

Rosenthal disputed Bral’s argument in an email to Blank Slate Media, saying the danger stems from “cumulative” exposure to the lights.

The project to replace the village’s streetlights is four years in the making. Great Neck purposefully took its time on this, Gill said, waiting for the technology to improve and costs to decline.

Other items at Tuesday’s Board of Trustees meeting included honoring Erin Lipinsky, who raised more than $11,000 in the Town of North Hempstead’s Polar Plunge for the Long Island Special Olympics; amending construction codes for fire safety; and declaring Herzliya, Israel, a sister city of the village.

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