The Sun Comes To Court Street’s Rescue

by Allan Appel | December 17, 2009 11:01 AM | | Comments (10)

nhidarkbridgde%20004.JPGThe first-ever city-sponsored solar-powered lights will soon illuminate a dark bridge that has had Wooster Square spooked.

That news pleased crime weary neighbors like Ben Simmons when they heard it at a meeting with officials Wednesday night.

Simmons was one of some 50 members of the Wooster Square Block Watch who gathered at the Conte West Hills school library to hear city’s short-term and long-term solutions to recent crimes clustered around the dark bridge. (Click here for a previous story and debate about the public’s concerns.) Crimes on the poorly lit bridge as well as at the intersection of Olive and Court galvanized the community into action.

nhidarkbridgde%20013.JPGThe week before Thanksgiving, Simmons (foreground in photo), who would walk on Court Street home from his downtown architect’s job, was targeted by a gauntlet of muggers arrayed on the bridge.

He eluded them by zigzagging back and forth across the dark bridge. Another member of his firm a week later was not so lucky.

Incidents like those were increasingly reported to District Manager Lt. Rebecca Sweeney and posted on SeeClickFix. The city responded by increasing patrols, including more undercover officers.

Illuminating the bridge proved trickier.

To add lights to the Court Street Bridge meant the city would collide with the jurisdictions of Metro North and the federal government. It would also prove a problem because of the huge amount of electricity powering the trains below.

Even if permission could be granted to tap into that electricity, it would cost a lot and take a long time — enabling muggers to continue exploiting the darkness in the meantime.

nhidarkbridgde%20009.JPGFor a solution, enter Sebouh Asadourian (foreground in photo with city Chief Operating Officer Rob Smuts). Asadourian is the city’s street light administrator. (Did you know we had one?)

After researching the issue, Asadourian selected a system of three solar fixtures from a Florida-based company named Sol.

The lights will be standard cobra-head L.E.D. fixtures mounted at the end of a 20-foot pole. The poles will rise from footings on the bridge and through openings cut in the curving barriers on both sides.

On the poles the solar panels will be bracketed at 45-degree angles and adjustable for orientation to the sun. Beneath the panel a battery bank will be charged by the sun for upwards of 14 hours.

solusa_pm_item.jpgSimmons and other green architects in the room peppered Asadourian with questions about the throw of the illumination, and if the battery will charge on the shortest and most overcast days.

“They’re dark-sky compliant,” Asadourian responded. That means means the battery will be charged even on overcast days and through the year’s longest night, Dec. 13.

He noted that Florida uses these lights, as do Vermont and other parts of New England that have less winter light.

Simmons, who practices green architecture himself with Pickard Chilton on Chapel Street, applauded the move. “It’s encouraging that they’ve taken it seriously,” he said. “I’m not skeptical. I just wanted to be sure the right light was chosen.”

Smuts estimated the total cost of the three lights including installation at $30,000. He said either stimulus money or capital project funds already in hand should cover the cost.

nhidarkbridgde%20010.JPGThe project should go out to bid in January, he said. New lights potentially could be up by the spring. Smuts complimented Wooster Street neighbors for working well with the city.

Kari Brady of the block watch agreed; she characterized the meeting as “terrific.” She also promised to start calling City Hall if the project ends up on a back burner after all.
She said she hopes the neighborhood can hold a celebration for the new bridge lights around the spring equinox, with day as long as night and solar-powered batteries presumably very happy. That would be March 20, 2010.







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Comments

Posted by: Nan Bartow | December 17, 2009 11:23 AM

Mr. Sebouh Asadourian, I'm glad to meet you on the NHI. You are the city’s street light administrator.
Thank you for coming up with a good solution to this problem.
(No, Allen Appel, I didn't know we had a street light administrator in New Haven. Now I do. I even know his name.)

Posted by: Ben | December 17, 2009 11:48 AM

This is amazing.

Great to live a city where citizens are willing to speak-up and city hall is willing to listen.

If you think that Monterey Place should replace the 40 street lights that are out in that neighborhood please speak-up here. Its a private company that is responsible for these lights and they don't have great people like Sebouh responding.

Help get them turned on by speaking up here: http://seeclickfix.com/issues/10182

Posted by: Jonas | December 17, 2009 12:32 PM

It's great that a solution has been presented, and that it includes the use of solar power.

That said, I hope that some attention is paid to the type of fixtures used. Given that requests came from people WALKING between downtown and Wooster Square, the new lights should be shorter, closer to the sidewalk. They better not be auto-oriented cobra-head lights meant to illuminate highway or a prison yard (notice that the picture at the bottom appears to actually be a prison yard, complete with barbed wire. That's not how our city streets should be treated.)

http://images.publicradio.org/content/2009/07/15/20090715_minneapolis_street_light_33.jpg
vs.
http://heatusa.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/led-street-lights.jpg

Posted by: Edgehood | December 17, 2009 12:37 PM

It's good to see some creative problem solving...!!

I wonder how the long term costs of solar street lights compare to what New Haven pays United Illuminating for lighting the 'wired' street lights that we have by the hundreds all over town. Maybe using solar powered street lights could save the city some money.

Posted by: Karri | December 17, 2009 12:59 PM

Thanks Allen for reporting our good news. In four short months we have been able to identify a few key issues, focus on them and begin to get results! Thanks to the Mayor's office for their response!

Posted by: Cordalie | December 17, 2009 2:04 PM

Dear EdgeHood-Using electricity to light a street light is about $185.00 a year I believe.

Posted by: KD | December 17, 2009 8:59 PM

Can any New Urbanists out there share any good links on pedestrian-scale non-cobra-head lighting?

Posted by: Edgehood | December 17, 2009 11:59 PM

@Cordalee:
It would be a long payback time at $185 a year.

They have these new wind-powered solar hybrid street lights that could feed surplus power back into the grid, though.

Here is an example...
http://www.greenwindsolar.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=157

Posted by: streever | December 18, 2009 8:22 AM

There are firms--like solarcity--that give you solar panels & charge you monthly. The bill is guaranteed to be less then your electric bill, and they charge no upfront fee. Worth looking into.

Posted by: L | December 18, 2009 11:47 AM

This is great news - thanks for listening, acting so quickly, and "green'ly" too. It is nice to feel listened to! I agree we should use more of these solar lights to offset electrical costs. About that cost - it's nothing compared to how those victims will feel for a very long time walking that same stretch. It's also nothing when you consider the crimes the lights will deter, including violent ones.

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