St. Nicholas residents differ about LED streetlight installation

New LED street lights have been coming to St. Nicholas, and not all residents are happy about it.

In early 2016, the City of Jacksonville and the Jacksonville Electric Authority launched a multi-year effort to upgrade all existing high pressure sodium (HPS) street lights with new LED lights, said Gerri Boyce, media relations coordinator for JEA.

“The material, along with the installation, for the LED conversion project is being supplied by JEA,” Boyce said. “When a street light is converted, it is moved into a new LED rate code. The rate for the LED cobra-head fixtures installed is currently less than the HPS/MH versions.”

There are many reasons having LED street lights installed is an advantage to the city, Boyce said.

The LED replacement project will cost approximately $30 million – $5 million per year over the next six years, but because the improved bulbs use about 40 to 60 percent less electricity, the eventual annual savings to the city may tally as much as $1 million after they all are installed, said Boyce.

In addition to being more energy efficient, LED street lights are brighter with a higher lumens per watt rating than the older version. They boast longer light expectancy, and are expected to last up to 20 years, more than three times longer than the HPS/MH lamps, which usually last only three to five years, she said, noting LED lights also provide a more accurate color rendering, depicting the true color of objects. The intensity of the light is more consistent throughout the LED lamp’s life span and there is “less wasted light,” Boyce said.

“LED fixtures are constructed in a way that directs the light in a specific direction, reducing light pollution,” she said.

However, not all St. Nicholas residents may agree with that statement.

In the Facebook group St. Nicholas Neighbors, Christopher Lahey created a thread asking the question, “Ok neighbors, how do we feel about these new LED street lights?” Noting that it feels “a bit like an interrogation room,” he also weighed in saying “Personally, the light intensity and color is incredibly shocking and not how I want to feel in our quaint pocket neighborhood. It’s already bad enough that we get blasted from the lights on the scoreboards. Now this…hrumph!” he said, referring to glare from the stadiums and scoreboards across the river.

A Holmesdale resident agreed, piping up that the atmosphere was “very Twilight Zone,” and although new lights were needed on the street, these are “super white bright. They light up the inside of the house, too.”

Meanwhile, Jennifer O’Neal Walworth didn’t mince words. “I hate them. Feels sterile. I woke up at 1 a.m. thinking it was morning,” she wrote and referred to a posting on CNN.com (www.cnn.com/2016.06/21/health/led-streetlights-ama/) from June 2016 where doctors issued a warning about LED streetlights. “The American Medical Association (AMA) has just adopted an official policy statement about street lighting: cool it and dim it,” she said.

However, Stacey Steiner posted she regrets not yet having the brighter lights on her street. “No new lights by me. Wish it was brighter over here. Happy to trade!”

Desiree Deakle Hauber also wrote she is happy about the change. “I like the extra light. It is brighter, but not too bright. I think my street is still pretty darn quaint.”

And Joyce Doty approved of the new streetlights. “I love the new lights. I feel safer at night when I’m outside. I close my blinds at night, so it isn’t an issue for the inside of my house.”

One resident said she hopes the new lights will “keep the riff raff” at the park on Palmer Terrace out at night, and Michael Bayne concurred. “The park needs more lights down there,” he said.

“Crime rate is lowest in neighborhoods with blue-light streetlights. Our new LED full-spectrum lamps are the next best thing,” wrote another resident. “The blue light emitting diode in these LED bulbs is a fairly recent development, which won the Nobel Prize in physics. It was the shortest time ever between the research report and award of the prize in physics,” she said.

“Young children should sleep in rooms with fairly heavy window coverings. There is a modest correlation between early onset diabetes and exposure to streetlights, which can make a bedroom much brighter than an ordinary nightlight for children. This discovery pre-dates LED streetlights,” she continued, adding, “the blue light phenomenon was reported before the scientific study is completed.”

The resident also referred to Snopes, which addressed the rumored correlation between the installation of blue streetlights in Japan and Scotland causing a reduction in crime and suicide rates. Last updated in May 2015, Snopes (www.snopes.com/politics/crime/bluelight.asp) catalogued the claim as “unproven,” citing that no specific scientific research existed while referring to several references within the media that had charted anecdotal evidence from police supporting the assertion.

Lahey also posted a link from Astronomy.com relating to the light and crime. Quoting from an article entitled “Humans cling to their primal fear of the dark” (http://cs.astronomy.com/…/humans-cling-to-their-primal) he wrote “Secondly, the researchers looked at lighting’s effect on crime trend’s. In regions of reduced lighting, they found, there was no increase in burglary, auto theft, robbery, violence or sexual assault.”

The effects of light pollution is also covered in an article printed by the International Dark-Sky Association (http://darksky.org/light-pollution/wildlife) which is known to negatively affect wildlife, plants, and animals. “Plants and animals depend on Earth’s daily cycle of light and dark rhythm to govern life-sustaining behaviors such as reproduction, nourishment, sleep and protection from predators,” according to the article.

No matter, one resident appreciates what the city and JEA are trying to do. “I like the energy savings with the LED, and they last about 10 years longer,” said Kelly Felkey Tomson.


By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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