Utility Pole Street Lighting
Whimsical look at the utility pole fastened street lighting common to New York City's outer boroughs.
|If Manhattan island is conspicuous for anything, it is what isn't there instead of what is. People who only see street scenes through the media of Manhattan, might be surprised to learn that many streetlights within NYC do not stand on their own. In the outer boroughs, many still hang off of wooden utility poles. Within Manhattan, this is nearly unheard of. Most t-pole lights hang off of plain looking elliptical crookarms that are little more than tubular 2-piece conduits that are braced by a bracket that appears welded to the lower piece.|
|Normal tapered elliptical arms, of the type commonly seen on free standing metal standards, appear on only a few isolated t-poles within NYC. To my knowledge, I've seen them only around old Flushing Airport, on the Whitestone, Clearview & Staten Island's West Shore Expwy service roads and in a tiny enclave between the Belt Pkwy and Nassau Expwy. These masts, however, are the mast de riguer on suburban Long Island utility poles.|
|Many wider sidestreets have longer truss arm masts, akin to the 1960's Worlds Fair era mastarms. I've discerned at least two different lengths of these. It appears that some roads, like Pelham Pkwy in The Bronx, have extra long mastarms. This could be an optical illusion, since the masts on Pelham tend to be fastened lower than usual. The trussarms appear frequently on lesser sidestreets in Brooklyn. The elliptical crooked trussarms are the only trussed masts on t-poles within NYC. The uplift, soft-curve trussarms have been relegated to freestanding metal standards.|
|The old straight-out masts, with decorative braces, that graced many older NYC streets until the 60's, are gone now, except for a few fire alarm lightholders, which I feature in the Photo Gallery, and at least one neglected survivor in Riverdale, also in the Photo Gallery, courtesy of Kevin Walsh. Outside the city, in many Long Island towns, these types of arms are still numerous, some probably dating from as recent as the 50's. A few major roads, like Hillside Ave, still have pendant type luminaires on them.|
|The present elliptical t-pole arms have been around for many decades now. Most are rusting to hell, but they are still being made to order. Every here and there, you can see a run of shiny new ones. They have held many luminaires. My earliest memories were with crescent moon shaped, claw-like fixtures and cuplights. They commonly held open type fixtures, including turtle beak-like mercury fixtures, but also held the standard GE M400's, M400A's, Westinghouse Silverliners, TB-327's, as well as the present crop of sode lumes.|
|The quarterloops have never appeared on a utility pole, to my knowledge, although they were designed to. A few bigloops actually do hang off of such poles, in Great Neck, Long Island. Within NYC, only one other mast is used, although it is a rare site. It could be called the mutant ofspring of an unholy union between a normal NYC t-pole elliptical mast and a wayward quarterloop. I call them the Big Crooks and have seen them mostly in Brooklyn, where they appear on both t-poles and standard hex poles. They are also often paired with LPS fixtures on some highways, like the Henry Hudson Pkwy.|
|It might appear to be a stretch to find any personality in such streetlight setups, but occassionally some pop up that are just irresistable. Especially when a precariously leaning pole and a metal fatigued mast combine forces to look utterly ridiculous. One that I used to pass regularly, on 20th Avenue in Brooklyn, always prompted me to think, "Boy am I beat!"|
Originally written in 1997.