A $2.7-million plan to install antique-looking lampposts will bring light to Brooklyn Heights — but it ain’t light on the wallet.
The Brooklyn Heights Association is on the verge of securing $400,000 in pork from Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D–Sunset Park) to join $250,000 that the group has already received via Councilman David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights) — money that will fund the replacement of the 229 still-functioning “cobra head” streetlights with replicas of cast-iron, “bishop’s crooks” lamps befitting a historic neighborhood.
Such old-timey lights already line Montague Street and the north side of Atlantic Avenue, and they illuminated all of Brooklyn Heights when the neighborhood became the city’s first historic district in 1965. But the iconic curled lamps were ripped out later in that decade to make room for today’s Modernist aluminum poles.
Each replica bishop’s crook light costs about $10,000, while a standard cobra head lamps retails for only $4,000, said a spokesman from the Department of Transportation — the agency which oversees all street light issues.
But the antique-looking streetlights are well worth the high price, according to Brooklyn Heights Association President Judy Stanton.
“They are beautiful, they enhance the neighborhood, and they are consistent with the history of the Heights,” said Stanton, who described the installation of the replica lamps as a means of creating jobs and promoting tourism.
“It’s a wonderful ambience to walk through a neighborhood and see historic lights.”
Velazquez agreed — and she told The Brooklyn Paper in a statement that spending hundreds of thousands in federal taxpayer money on the lights would help boost the local economy.
“It will create new jobs in our community and attract more tourists to Brooklyn Heights, further stimulating economic activity,” said Velazquez, whose cash is still awaiting Senate approval. “Given the current state of the economy, it’s important to support community-driven projects that help put New Yorkers to work.”
Though the Brooklyn Heights Association has only secured funding for a quarter of the lighting project, which aims to replace every cobra head lamps in an area bounded by Atlantic Avenue, Court Street, Poplar Street, and Furman Street (though not on Furman Street itself), the group plans to begin installing the bishop’s crook lights in phases, perhaps starting on the blocks near Montague Street and continuing north, Stanton said.
The project does not yet have an official starting date.
The classic lamps might look great, but not everyone believes they are deserving of the government pork.
“I think they are pretty, but they are not worth the money,” said Brooklyn Heights Maria Byros.
Fellow Heights resident Marc White echoed her concern.
“The city should be spending money on something more substantive, less cosmetic,” he said.
The lamp project still needs to receive approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission, though the agency has approved the installation of similar bishop’s crooks lights in other historic districts, a spokesman told The Brooklyn Paper.
©2009 Community News Group