The Towers of Light proposal is back. Apparently the new mayor likes it. It has some aesthetic appeal, but many people living nearby don't want it. Neither do birders, since the skyward lighting is apt to confuse night-migrants. According to Rebekah Creshkoff, the technology is the old ceilometer system, once used for measuring cloud ceilings around airports. There is evidence that such lights have affected flocks in the past, and placing them near a lot of tall buildings on a major flyway is a bad idea, at least during migration season, which will be underway (though not at peak) before this proposal runs its course.
- alex 2-06-2002 6:06 pm

Not to mention the effects on astronomy. Light pollution is a serious problem.
- steve 2-07-2002 2:31 am [add a comment]

Julian LaVerdiere has done some work that I like, and I would have to say that I favor this proposal--in theory, at least--over the various public art nightmares out there waiting to happen (big bronze firemen, chairs for each of the victims, recycled Richard Serra, anything picked by a committee). As for Battery Park City residents having to close their drapes at night: boo hoo, they should be sparing us their exhibitionism anyway. As for astronomy, C'mon, Steve, that's already a lost cause in Manhattan. So far the most compelling argument I've heard against the piece is Alex's: the one good thing Osama did was cut the birds who smashed into the towers some slack.
- tom moody 2-07-2002 3:09 am [add a comment]

  • I like your bird comment. But light pollution hinders the visibility of night skies all over the world, not just the area it originates from.
    - steve 2-07-2002 6:57 am [add a comment]

There is an organized Dark Skies movement, which shares ground with conservationists of many stripes. There is a light-pollution bill in the state legislature, but its prospects don't look too good. The governor claims he likes the idea, but costs and security concerns (evildoers lurk in the dark) are more important right now.
- alex 2-07-2002 3:01 pm [add a comment]

ruth and i saw julian and paul do a presentation on this...their big worry is that the project will be co-opted by various folks for symbolism which they (the creators) don't intend -- eg one proposal was to have the 2 light beams be red and blue, for firemen and policemen. as time goes by this co-option seems more, not less likely. so my own guess is that the project isn't going to happen. it would have been great if it had gone up during the first month; after that it seems less and less directly relevant and more ideological. although having it turned on for a week at the first anniversary, say, would make sense to me.
- big jimmy 2-10-2002 4:58 pm [add a comment]

Speaking of cooption, it's now Tribute of Light, and it's getting closer.
- alex 2-28-2002 3:27 pm [add a comment]

The Post picks up on the bird angle. Supposedly there are some safeguarding compromises in the plan.
- alex 3-01-2002 7:10 pm [add a comment]

From the Times; looks like it's a done deal.
- alex 3-05-2002 3:01 pm [add a comment]

"Some family members of those who died worry that it will merely commemorate architecture rather than the victims and heroes. In part to assuage them, the title was changed from 'Towers of Light' to 'Tribute in Light.'"

In part? What was the other part? Perhaps that the current owner of the WTC property plans to rebuild actual, glass-and-steel towers, and didn't want people thinking that only a ghostly outline will appear on the site?

"Tribute in Light" sounds like "Holiday on Ice." LaVerdiere and Myoda should have withdrawn from the project, once the title and concept was compromised to that extent. Fame is a bitch-goddess.
- tom moody 3-05-2002 5:46 pm [add a comment]

One angry birdwatcher annotates the Times article.
A rant, but with a number of good points. I learn here that the light-pollution bill was indeed vetoed by Pataki.

- alex 3-06-2002 3:04 pm [add a comment]

"The installation will cost about $500,000 [what a tremendous waste of taxpayers' and
ratepayers' money], Ms. Levy said. That includes construction [no doubt by the Mafia, who
"60 Minutes" found building New York's Federal Courthouse], two round-the-clock guards and a
technician who will extinguish the lights if requested by the Federal Aviation Administration or the
New York City Audubon Society, which worries that migrating birds like the American woodcock
might die as a result of being drawn to the beacons. [This boondoggle will disrupt bird migration
to a much greater extent than the individual dead birds that happen to be found.]

The financing is coming from individuals, [tax exempt] foundations and corporations [and, of
course, taxpayers and ratepayers, who will have to make up for the corporations' and wealthy
individuals' deductions. As Leona Helmsley once said, "We don't pay taxes. Only the little
people pay taxes."], led by Deutsche Bank [which finances environmentally disastrous
megaprojects around the world, such as the Three Gorges Dam in China], [media and ISP
monopolist] AOL-Time Warner and General Electric [Pollution is our most important product],
which has given both money and 100 xenon bulbs valued at $1,200 each [money that might
better have been spent cleaning up GE's PCB mess in the Hudson River], Ms. Levy said.
Consolidated Edison is donating the power. [In fact, Con Edison's captive ratepayers are forcibly
paying for the power, since as a regulated utility, Con Edison is guaranteed a profit. Meanwhile,
the obsolete Indian Point nuclear reactor is known to be leaking radioactive coolant while
generating incremental amounts of additional power.] The Alliance for Downtown New York [a
big business lobby] is also making a contribution."

A rant indeed, but I basically agree. After all, last I heard we were suffering from another "energy crisis" We're paying higher rates, threatend by "rolling blackouts" etc... I for one miss seeing the less popular stars and constellations.
- steve 3-07-2002 12:44 am [add a comment]

This is what birders were afraid of: this year’s Tribute in Light display coincided with a big migrant flight. Too bad for the birds. Here’s a report received from bird advocate Rebekah Creshkoff (a non-birder friend who saw the display thought that there was “glitter” in the light beams; that was birds.)

I was at the Tribute in Light briefly tonight, from about 10:30 to 11. I didn't see our volunteer Brooke, but I sure hope she or Eileen or Denise had/have a camera. I didn't, but what's going on down there should be documented.

THOUSANDS of birds were behaviorally trapped in the columns of light. The beams were visibly filled with birds for their entire height, looking like clouds of bugs. Their twittering was audible.

Their brightly illuminated bodies were reflected in the windows of nearby buildings -- 3 World Financial Center and the movie theatre. The light was so bright, some birds looked as though they were on fire.

There were so many birds, it was impossible to track any one individual for any length of time. I did see one bird that circled in and out of the uptown beam six times before I lost track. Each time, the bird stayed in the light for from 3 to 9 seconds.

The lowest 30 feet or so of light hadmoths instead of birds. Fantastic numbers of moths were attracted to surface of the big lamps. Assistants (wearing sunglasses) frequently wiped the surface of the lights with a cloth; even so, there would be smoke from all the moth bodies just moments later. I saw one bird lower down (apparently) escape the beams.

The birds were visible to the naked eye as sparkling motes floating in the light from Barrow St., about a mile or so uptown.

I found all this extremely disturbing. It takes a songbird about a week to lay down a gram of fat -- fuel for its long-distance migration. That fat will carry it about 120 miles. How much fat are they wasting flying around in those beams, only to have to (best case) spend the next several days refueling in food- and habitat-poor lower Manhattan?

The beams put me in mind of the old-time ceilometers -- beams of light formerly used at airports to measure the height of the cloud cover. Many significant birds kills were documented at ceilometers. I am attaching a paper I wrote for the organizers of the first Tribute in Light, which references ceilometer data.

The good news is, the lights will be off tomorrow. But is the human value of the Tribute in Light really worth imperiling thousands of birds -- and incinerating God knows how many moths?


- alex 9-12-2004 10:02 pm [add a comment]

reBlog item on this (the date is weird--working on it--but it's correct on the main page and will be accessible from the September archive)
- tom moody 9-12-2004 11:00 pm [add a comment]

These spam ads appear to return to posts that have spam ads, so I've been deleting them on my page...
- tom moody 10-19-2004 6:23 pm [add a comment]

I've been deleting them, but they still seem to return to the same pages. I think the "web crawling" and "comment spamming" stages of the incursions may be independent.
- mark 10-19-2004 9:49 pm [add a comment]

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