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Lights out on a Green New York City

February 13, 2016

It is not surprising to see a picture of New York City’s skyline at night. What may come as more of a shock is that this skyline is lit by buildings which are almost completely unused at night time. Approximately 40,000 buildings use more lights than they need to in New York City. This results in the wasting of energy and the creation of greenhouse gasses.

 

Greenhouse gasses, which can have negative impacts for our environment and atmosphere if released in large quantities are produced en masse by buildings in New York City which leave lights on at night. In fact, “buildings in New York City, seen at night, account for about 80 percent of the city’s total greenhouse emissions” (International Business Times). Recently, this problem has been getting nationwide coverage, as the United States government attempts to reduce the creation of greenhouse gasses across the country. The Department of Energy has invested six million dollars to aid the statewide acceleration of energy efficiency in buildings. New York, specifically, is in the process of passing a bill which will “limit internal and external light use in many commercial buildings when empty at night”. Another way in which New York city is specifically attempting to reduce their energy consumption is in the construction of energy efficient buildings. The redesigned World Trade Center complex has been built to be energy efficient. 75% of the complex’s buildings are LEED Gold certified, becoming the first buildings in the city to reach that certification. The buildings will also be outfitted with state-of-the-art daylight sensors which will automatically dim lights in the buildings when there is sufficient outside lighting. 

   

Despite a general consensus in New York City that something must be done to reduce energy consumption, there are many people who oppose the city’s legislation aimed at accomplishing this goal. Many city officials have expressed problems with a provision in the bill allowing certain buildings deemed iconic to be exempt from efficiency requirements. “The mandate to curate, if you will, the skyline of the city of New York is not something the commission does currently”, said Mark Silberman, general counsel for the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission. Other critics cited security concerns, “security cameras would be useless in the dark, and police officers would no longer peek into darkened stores at night” (Jay M. Peltz, General Counsel for the Food Industry Alliance of New York State, quoted in The New York Times).

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