What are streetlights good for?
Aside from being the centerpiece of the ever-popular Journey song, streetlights make moving through the city safer and easier. Pedestrians are better able to see the sidewalk they’re walking on — and each other — drivers can see curbs, sidewalks, and people or animals in the streets, and most everyone feels just a little safer with some extra lights on.
But some people in the northwest Bronx have noticed living along the twisting, decidedly not-gridded streets — like Albany Crescent in Kingsbridge — are finding their streetlights going out and staying out. And for the streetlights that are working, there just aren’t enough of them to cast enough light to brighten someone’s evening.
Lawrence Cooper has been doing something about it. Earlier this year, he started complaining to 311 about three streetlights that were out at Albany Crescent and West 231st Street. Six months later, they were finally restored, only to burn out again in November.
This time, however, the city acted a lot faster, the local attorney said. As of last week, the lights were back on.
“We got the repair person to come out, and they needed us to provide them with pictures of the lights so they knew which ones it was, which absolutely was incredible,” Cooper said. “I believe they ran a separate power line from one of the other lights on Albany Crescent, connecting the lights on 231st with the ones on Albany Crescent.”
Getting 311 to pay attention was a challenge as well, he said. Operators told Cooper Albany Crescent wasn’t recognized as a street within their 311 database, and he had to fight to ensure the request went through.
Yet calling 311 is still the best path to fixing such issues, said Community Board 8 traffic and transportation committee chair Dan Padernacht . He recommends following up with the board office and providing the complaint number from 311 so the district manager and her staff can follow up with the request.
“That’s the best way to move forward on a streetlight issue,” Padernacht said.
It is true, however, that it can take a long time for light issues to get fixed.
“I knew about one streetlight issue which did take months,” Padernactht said. “The individual had contacted us, but I had gotten a call about something over the summer. By the time he notified me that it had been corrected, there had been a few months lapse in time.”
The lights outside his home aren’t Cooper’s only problem. He says a lack of streetlights on the nearby Major Deegan Expressway also is dangerous to drivers.
Cooper wondered if the lights on Albany Crescent were connected to the ones on the Deegan, and if construction on the highway could be causing the blackout issues in his neighborhood.
Because Albany Crescent does run over the Deegan, it’s possible that the lights are connected, Padernacht said, but he couldn’t say for sure.
The city’s transportation department is responsible for maintaining more than 250,000 streetlights across the city, although electrical problems are typically passed on to Con Edison, according to the agency’s website. DOT did not respond to requests for comment.
Even off the freeway, there’s concern there aren’t enough streetlights in different neighborhoods, like the area around Mosholu Avenue and Broadway where Irene Goldstein runs Gotham Driving School.
“Now, since I moved in here, I’ve been complaining to put up another one,” she said. “But now there’s been a couple of break-ins around here, around this neighborhood. And people are not safe. I know customers complain about coming in here in the dark, because they can’t even see where they’re walking.”
Goldstein parks her school’s cars on the street outside and worries that, without lights, they’re more vulnerable to be burglarized or even stolen. She already has had the windows of one of her cars broken.
The situation is similar on Albany Crescent — one stretch of the road has just one streetlight, on one side of the road.
Requesting a new streetlight isn’t quite as simple as putting in a 311 complaint, Padernacht said. In fact, he wasn’t sure how someone might make that happen.
“If a resident or a business wants to request additional street lighting, they could certainly let us know at the traffic and transportation committee, and we could put an item on the agenda, and then forward that information to DOT,” Padernacht said. “The committee could do our own evaluation of the area as well.”
In the meantime, Cooper wants to know how exactly the lights surrounding his neighborhood keep going out — and who exactly planned how those lights were placed.
“It’s right before the Van Cortlandt Park exit going southbound,” Cooper said, of the exit he’d take to get back to his neighborhood. “There are no lights. So why that happens, your guess is as good as mine.”