The Real Deal New York

REBNY is afraid of the dark

Trade group battles nighttime illumination bill

April 29, 2015 05:31PM
By Tess Hofmann

Blackout in Manhattan

Blackout in Manhattan

Bright lights, big city. And the Real Estate Board of New York wants to make sure it stays that way.

A REBNY representative showed up at a City Council committee hearing Wednesday to stress the trade group’s opposition to a bill that would limit illumination in the city’s commercial and retail buildings at night.

The bill, sponsored by Council Member Donovan Richards, aims to help with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s goal of slashing citywide greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050 — legislation that was signed into law in December. The new bill, proponents say, could also improve views of the night sky and be a boon to birds whose migration patterns are jeopardized by the city’s bright lights.

De Blasio’s OneNYC plan, released last week, specifically mentions the administration’s goal of reducing light pollution from large buildings at night. According to the mayor’s office, lighting efficiency and control measures have the potential to significantly reduce citywide greenhouse gas emissions.

REBNY delivered its testimony via staffer Ali Davis, who read remarks by Angela Sung Pinsky, senior vice president of management services and government affairs.“While we strongly support the city’s goal of lowering our carbon footprint, [we] are concerned with environmental benefits that may create impacts on safety, security, and economic viability,” the statement read. Pinsky is married to Seth Pinsky, former chair of the city’s Economic Development Corp. and now a senior executive at RXR Realty.

Pinsky predicted issues with the mandate due to cleaning staff and security guards who occupy buildings at night, as well as general safety issues. She cited a study that found crime decreased 21 percent in areas that experienced street light improvements.

Also, due to a provision in the bill that would exempt certain landmarks, Pinsky said that most landmarks would apply for the exemption and create an onslaught of red tape for the city.

In response to the nighttime staffing issue, Richards asked whether motion sensor lights would solve the problem, but David was hesitant to answer directly.

While REBNY supports the general goals of slashing emissions, she said, the issue is with the mandate.

“I don’t see us getting to an 80 percent reduction by 2050 without some mandates,” Richards said. “Unless you can show me now how you’re going to do it voluntarily.”

John Lee testified on behalf of the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, and voiced his overall support of the bill, with some reservations.

Under the current text, the Department of Environmental Protection would be tasked with enforcement, something he said might be illogical given that they deal with building owners, whereas tenants are the ones who might forget to turn the lights off.

Though Lee said he doubts the environmental impact would be enormous, the city needs any reduction it can get, and believes the measure would be positive so long as they can prevent it from becoming “a useless piece of unenforecable legislation.”