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May 25, 2010 7:12 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

East Hampton citizens cry out against dark sky extension

May 25, 2010 7:12 PM

East Hampton’s new government’s plan to put protecting the town’s night sky from light pollution on the back burner doesn’t sit well with a large number of people, who turned out in droves last Thursday night, May 20, for a public hearing on whether to extend the deadline for businesses to comply with a lighting code designed to protect views of the sky.

The so-called “Dark Sky” restrictions were enacted nearly four years ago, but businesses were given until October 2010 to comply. The amendment would give them until December 2012 to replace or retrofit their light fixtures with fixtures that are Dark Sky compliant. The board is considering the changes due to complaints from the business community about the expense of the fixtures at a time when they are struggling with the economic downturn.

Dark Sky expert and lighting specialist Susan Harder was one of the many citizens who successfully lobbied for the changes in 2006. Though dark skies have long been a priority of town Democrats and the changes are proposed by a board that is dominated by Republicans, she was quick to point out that the night sky is not a political issue.

“It’s primarily about safety,” she told the board Thursday night. “The reduction of glare from unshielded fixtures is better for night vision.”

She added that many of the changes can be made for free, and others easily pay for themselves because they require less electricity.

“One third of the energy from an unshielded fixture is wasted,” she said. Ms. Harder asked the board to give the Planning Board discretion on whether to allow extensions for business owners who can prove the changes will be too costly. She added that dark sky advocates had already conceded that businesses, but not individual residents, would be allowed four years to comply when the law was first enacted, and that the Town Board at the time had ensured that businesses would not face site plan review when updating their lighting.

“Owners of commercial property were given four years to comply with a simple request,” said Arlene Coulter, who lambasted the “me” attitude that she said had driven their request. “Maybe we customers of these businesses should stop patronizing them.”

Her suggestion was met with overwhelming applause from the audience.

J.J. Kremm, whose children Orion and Leo were born in Astoria, Queens, said that the darkness of the night sky was something he treasured about East Hampton.

“My kids said, ‘Are the stars closer here?’” he said. “I said, ‘No, they’re just brighter.’”

Richard Lupoletti said that he was also a city boy who discovered the night sky when he moved to East Hampton.

“I discovered there is a nebula, there are stars,” he said. “I didn’t know they existed. I saw things in the sky I had never seen before.’”

He added that he believes the habits of animals have begun to change because of light pollution.

Margaret Turner of the East Hampton Business Alliance was one of just two speakers who supported the extension.

“Most businesses agree and want to comply,” she said. “But right now the businesses would like to be rehiring two, three or 10 of the people they’ve laid off. Most businesses cannot just replace fixtures, and that triggers the application process.”

She said that businesses would then need to hire draftsmen and engineers to develop new lighting plans. She also said that lower lighting levels were actually more dangerous.

“Your eyes can’t adjust because of the contrast,” she said.

Jim Zaborski, the president of the Dune Management Company, which manages resorts and multi-family dwellings, primarily in Montauk, told the board that the costs would be substantial.

“If you don’t have LIPA fixtures, they’re not going to do anything” to retrofit them for free, he said. “This law was conceived at a time when prosperity reigned.”

Richard Kahn of the Concerned Citizens of Montauk said that the change to the law would likely trigger a review under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, because it had the potential to adversely effect the environment. He also chastised the board for not mentioning the proposed change to the town’s energy and lighting committee.

“It’s really startling,” he said of the lack of communication.

Bill Aiken of Montauk said that he wanted his grandchildren to be able to come see the stars in Montauk.

“There is a value to dark skies that is extremely basic. The thing with quality of life issues is you don’t lose them all at once.”

He added that he believes the glare from lights at the Montauk Manor condominium resort, not far from his house, is a real issue.

“It’s like some alien space ship has landed there,” he said.

The board closed the public hearing after more than an 
hour of comment, but did not take action on the proposed changes.

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Is it just me, or am I missing something here? Businesses were given 4 years to go to Home Depot & buy lesser wattage light bulbs & they can't afford to do this? Are things really that bad in East Hampton where they can't afford a pack of light bulbs valued at what - $3.99?
By Ms. Jane Q. Public (147), Southampton on May 26, 10 10:01 AM
is it me or does phil looked tired
By asurest (117), easthampton on May 26, 10 7:42 PM
On one hand, having less glaring lights would seem to be a good thing. If you listen to the people proposing this they seem to have comic book science in their heads.

"The reduction of glare from unshielded fixtures is better for night vision" - maybe so but not enough to really MATTER!

"One third of the energy from an unshielded fixture is wasted" - why? because it shines up and out? You could argue that point the other way too.

the habits of animals have begun to change ...more
By Hambone (514), New York on May 27, 10 8:39 AM
Do some simple research I dare you

By eddiestardust (4), Yardley on Jun 6, 10 3:36 PM
Maybe Hambone lives in NYC where you can't see any stars anyway?
You just LOVE to pay more to your local electric company right?
By eddiestardust (4), Yardley on Jun 6, 10 4:48 PM
If you truly want to see dark skies go camping unstate.

The complaint about the lights at the Montauk Manor really cracks me up, it was there before the guys house.... long before!
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on May 27, 10 8:03 PM
The "complaints from the business community about the expense of the fixtures at a time when they are struggling with the economic downturn." is a cop-out. If they had taken care of the issue FOUR YEARS AGO when it was first enacted and the economy was still good then everything would be fine. Why did business wait? They had enough time to plan for the fixes budget appropriately. The town should say "Hey - fixing the problem will be cheaper than paying the fines" and leave it at that.
By Rich Morey (378), Brooklyn on Jun 2, 10 11:19 AM
Light pollution is definitely aa concern, but not here. East Hampton is not some big city, nor will it EVER be. To open the door and allow some group to MAKE the Town legislate what type of light fixtures people can use is ridiculous and a sad picture of what our Town has become......part of Massachusetts!!
By YEAROUNDER (81), East Hampton on Jun 2, 10 4:53 PM
Why is it that we MUST light the night sky?

I mean really, do the clouds care? Nope. Does it help you to navigate? Nope just ask pilots.

Do birds like it? Nope it kills them.

And studies indicate that workers on night shift can get cancer more readily than those who are not. Newer studies show that the hormone Melatonin, that is made while we sleep fights cancer.

I have to assume that many people LOVE to pay more on their electric bills?
By eddiestardust (4), Yardley on Jun 6, 10 4:45 PM
Let's get serious here:

Life evolved on Earth with 3 main sources of Light:

The Sun during the day and the Moon and Stars (The Milky Way, believe it or not CAN cast a shadow) during the night.

Isn't it just common sense that if you add in man-made light that something will happen to us and to nature?

Just because some don't think beyond their noses doesn't mean that nature bends to your bias.

Just look at the oil spill..what happens if you have a spill? ...more
By eddiestardust (4), Yardley on Jun 6, 10 4:52 PM
Without precaution we experience profit precluding that precaution. The short term balance sheet will look good - the long term balance sheet will NOT!
Which is more important? Does anyone but the "bean counters" know and moreover look at what they have done in the banking industry? Bankers and accountants have a very narrow, parochial short term understanding of life's management. Sad that they navigate and control the ship of Life On Earth, apparently? It makes me think of the White Star Line, ...more
By GrahamLP2 (2), Manchester on Jun 6, 10 5:51 PM
The "hidden"harm of UNNECESSARY light at night will be irrevocable, apparently? A bit like breathing asbestos and smoking - the harm, once done, cannot be undone. The CfDS have produced a handbook explaining the more widespread and deeper implications of the 24 hour day -
Please read it and draw your own conclusions. For me now face the kind of palliative future faced by those told that they have lung cancer and who are further told "not ...more
By GrahamLP2 (2), Manchester on Jun 6, 10 5:17 PM
No one is disputing any of the rambling above. What IS riduclous is making others abide by what YOU believe to be true.
By YEAROUNDER (81), East Hampton on Jun 8, 10 4:18 PM
I could understand enacting the Dark Sky ordinance if we were all living with kleig lights in our front yards blasting 10K watts into the night sky or a neighbor's bedroom. But telling me that I have to remove my 3 regular 100 watt wall fixtures (they only shine outwards, not upwards) by my front door and on my garage and replace them with little 40 watt downcast lights that only leave a little 2ft puddle of light directly under the light fixture is not only absurd, it's downright dangerous. I ...more
By LocalEHGirl (3), East Hampton on Jun 17, 10 12:19 AM