Shining a light on a serious issue
by Ed Wendell
Oct 16, 2013 | 1622 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Every morning, residents from Glendale, Woodhaven, Richmond Hill, Kew Gardens, Forest Hills and other nearby neighborhoods go to Forest Park to run, walk, ride their bicycle, walk the dog, etc. And every morning, these early risers find themselves doing so in near to total blackness.

We’re newcomers to this, having started near daily walks in the morning back in June. As we started each day earlier and earlier, we began noticing the near-blackout conditions on the main road of concern, the Brooklyn-Queens Greenway, or as it is commonly known, Forest Park Drive.

Joggers and walkers are currently on edge with two rapes in the last six months and the revelation that the suspect in these attacks is linked to a total of six overall. One would expect the city to do whatever it takes to make the park experience as safe as possible for everyone, so we reported the lighting issues.

We’ve made videos and taken pictures and drawn maps and we’ve been sending them directly to the Queens Commissioner of the Department of Transportation, Ms. Dalila Hall (DOT is responsible for lighting in our city’s parks).

The response from DOT has been pathetic. The first thing they did was tell us that they would “look into it.” Any time someone in government tells you they’ll “look into” something, it means they’ll ignore it and hope you’ll shut up and go away. Email followed email followed email. Then they started spinning.

“The lamps in the park operate from dusk to dawn,” Ms. Hall told us. “You will see a variation between places because some lamps are operating on a more sophisticated system that can sense light levels while others are on a fixed time clock which is regularly updated to adjust for sunset/sunrise. This said, the lamp hours still correspond with dusk to dawn as this tends to be the rule for when city parks close and open.”

So, let’s get this straight. At dusk, the parks are supposed to close, and that’s when they turn the lights on? And at dawn, when the parks open, the lights turn off? So, it’s like a refrigerator in reverse. In other words, it makes no sense.

Particularly since at dawn – keep in mind that dawn is not sunrise – it is far too dark to be in the park without lights. So, according to DOT, the park opens at dawn and they shut off the lights leaving people in the dark.

And when I say that it’s dark, I mean that it is so dark that if you were walking your dog along the Brooklyn-Queens Greenway, someone could walk up to you and physically touch you before you even knew they were there. And DOT thinks their lamps are sophisticated.

That is dangerously stupid.

But if all that isn’t maddening enough, this week we were speaking with members of the Forest Park Runners, an organization that has been in existence for over three decades, and they told us that they have been waging this battle for over four years.

Four years!

Allowing these conditions to continue each morning is reckless. I’d say that defending these policies with spin is criminal if the spin wasn’t so clueless. A DOT spokesman told WCBS that “DOT continues to inspect the lighting in Forest Park and has found it to be in working order during seasonally appropriate hours.”

That, my friends, is a gigantic load of manure. People have been running in the dark, using flashlights and iPhones to light the path ahead of them, for over four years, throughout all seasons. There is no appropriate season for leaving people in the dark.

It’s hard to imagine someone actually defending a system that would keep the park brightly lit at 3 a.m. when, presumably, no one is using it, yet descend into total darkness at 6 a.m. when it is widely used. And this is what they call a sophisticated system. This is was DOT calls “in working order.”

Here’s a simple request for the higher-ups at the Department of Transportation. Come to the Brooklyn-Queens Greenway at 5:30 a.m. one morning. Take a nice morning walk from Woodhaven Boulevard to Metropolitan Avenue. All by yourself. Maybe ask your wife to walk this road in the dark by herself. Or maybe your daughter.

And then try to tell us that these lights are “in working order.”

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