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Debate Growing In Nassau County Over LED Streetlights

GREAT NECK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Dim streets may soon be a memory in one Nassau County village as officials consider replacing 800 streetlights.

But while some worry about medical risks and light pollution, others see LED as a no-brainer benefit.

Many cities around the world — including New York — are jumping aboard the LED bandwagon.

They’re energy efficient, cheaper, and offer better illumination. But are they safer?

“Especially for older people brighter light is more important because you tend to see less at night,” Great Neck resident Joan Fensterstock tells CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan.

The Fensterstocks just replaced all their household high-pressure sodium lights with LED bulbs, and are behind a local move for the village to light up with LED technology — visible even during the day.

“From the point of view of Great Neck, there’s no maintenance,” Albie Fensterstock said. “You put it in once and you can forget about it, so as a taxpayer you like it very much.”

But not everyone is on board. The jury is still out on animal and plant life exposed to the 24/7 bright lights. Possible risks to humans include retinal damage and sleep disruptions caused by blue light, a component of LED.

“Exposed to significant blue light affects your body’s clock mechanism to make melatonin and decipher day from night and that is really what circadian rhythm is all about,” sleep specialist Dr. Joshua Rosenthal said.

With careers in science and health, some Great Neck neighbors point to cities in Europe, California, and New England that installed then removed LED lighting due to medical and environmental concerns.

“The idea of my entire community where we have 800 street lamps being lit with these similar lights is a very daunting proposition,” homeowner Judy Rosenthal said.

“Bulbs looking ghastly and nightmarish like prison lights,” neighbor Amy Glass said. “There are ways of doing it better and the scientists are working very hard on that right now.”

The village is putting out bids for the lowest cost installer, as some residents continue the fight — challenging the mayor to hold off on LED lights until more research is in.

The mayor of Great Neck declined CBS2’s request for comment on the matter.

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