Attack of the Street Lights Incandescents vs Mercuries
It was a war to the death in the early 1960s lasting well into the 1980s, the conversion from incandescent lighting to fluorescent mercury vapor lighting on New York City's streets and arterial highways.
|I fell in love with streetlights when I was still a little boy. I witnessed first hand the changing of the guard, so to speak, in the world of New York City streetlighting. They tossed away the incandescents on my block in 1963. Being partial to the bright, clean fluorescent kind of light, I was excited that my street was getting the new, modern, fluorescent-like mercuries. I was already impatient for change when ever something hung around me too long. I disliked, however, the loopy uplift mast arms that were installed to hold the new lights to the poles. I had always liked the slightly crooked elliptical arms that extended straight out from the light poles. The new arms looped wildly up from the poles. I wasn't a loop man. Two blocks away, they left the old arms. why the hell did they have to replace the arms on my block?|
graced my block with one of two mercury vapor fluorescent fixture
types then dominating NYC. Of course, that fixture had to be
the GE M400, which had a disgusted expression on its' glass bowl
Who wants to walk outside every day and be greeted every 50 feet by a light in a bad mood? At 6 years old, this can be traumatic.
In addition, the old incandescents looked like harmless little cups, these looked like the dopey bowls your mothers would put candy or nuts out for company in.
predominant merc fixture in NYC, Westinghouse's Silverliner,
always had a friendly, cheerful
smile on its' visage. I never got to live on a street that had
Every time we moved after that, we always ended up on a street with the "Disgusteds". Even when sodium vapor fixtures replaced the mercs, our block got the new sleek, streamlined 70's version of "The Disgusteds", that I dubbed "The Doubtfuls ". Ooh! I hated them!
part is, now I miss the cuplights.
I just spotted one that the DOT boys missed, on a forlorn, rusting, crookarm pole, straight out of my childhood street. It stands
above the equally forlorn Interboro Parkway, amidst several equally
forlorn, ancient cemetaries on borderland that both Brooklyn
and Queens each insists belongs to the other.
UPDATE 2003: Alas, this rusting cup-light and pole could not be left in peace during a reconstruction of the overpass a few years after this was written. Instead they now rest in peace, along with their cemetarial neighbors.
|Those who look hard enough will even find pseudo art-deco Whitestone Bridge type poles, that still got the cups. The 235th St. walkbridge over the Henry Hudson Pkwy, in the Bronx, has mini versions of them and they still work. I ain't divulging the whereabouts of the others yet, until I can get around to photographing them. The heartless agencies responsible for them would probably rush to "vaporize" them if I spilled the beans.|
Originally written in 1996.