Energy + Environment, Legislation + Regulation

Cities Getting Serious About Light Pollution

New York City enacted two new laws aimed at curbing light pollution for City-owned properties. The proposed legislation allows for exemptions for landmark buildings – enabling the Empire State Building’s color-changing fixtures to continue illuminating the top 30 stories.

In mid-December, NYC enacted the following two laws:

  1. Nighttime illumination during peak bird migration periods (Int 0274-2018)
    The law requires that all non-essential outdoor lighting in buildings owned by the City, or in leased buildings where the City is the only tenant, be turned off between 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. during peak avian migration periods. The City is also mandated to use its best efforts to include provisions in lease negotiations to require non-essential outdoor lighting be turned off between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. during peak aviation migration periods for buildings where the City is not the only tenant.
  2. Reducing unnecessary illumination in city-owned spaces (Int 1781-2019)
    This bill requires the installation of occupancy sensors to limit illumination in buildings owned by New York City (City-owned buildings). This requirement applies to spaces in at least 25% of City-owned buildings by 2023; at least 40% of such buildings by 2025; at least 75% of such buildings by 2027; and all such buildings by 2030. This bill also requires periodic reporting regarding compliance with the requirements of this bill.

Two additional bills to reduce light pollution in private buildings are being considered. The full story is here.


The City of Pittsburgh enacted a “Dark Sky Lighting” ordinance, in August, for all city parks, facilities and streetlights. The ordinance addresses the use of technology, lower color temperature and shielding to minimize the use of outdoor lighting, to only that needed for comfort and safety.

Under the ordinance, the City will adhere to Dark Sky principles for its newly installed or retrofitted streetlights, newly constructed and renovated park spaces and playgrounds as well as newly constructed and renovated City-owned buildings.

The City of Pittsburgh developed the ordinance with assistance and support from the International Dark-Sky Association, Biophilic Cities Network, Carnegie Mellon University and local partners.

The full story is here.


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