At about nine o’clock the crowd thronging the bridge was perched 212 feet above the Hudson River, eagerly waiting to see the bridge glow. And then, all of a sudden, the white lights flashed on, one by one, until the entire span was lit. An impromptu chorus erupted, singing “Blinded By the Light,” the Bruce Springsteen song that shot to the top of the charts in 1977 after being revamped by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. Red Hook resident Gregory Coston said of the lighting, “It was very pleasant. We enjoyed it and we’ll come back for sure.”
Lighting the Way
One man said earlier that week that he planned to be down below taking a photograph of the event. That man is Andy Neal, the brains behind the LED light project.
When asked what he thought of the LED lights along the world’s longest pedestrian bridge, Neal said, “The basic concept is awesome. Some stuff I would change, but you’ve really got to think it’s the first time its ever been done on the planet, so obviously there are things that you would do differently if you were to do it again.”
Neal said the white lights on the Walkway are a “very special color” and compared them to a reading lamp. “It is very pleasing on the eye,” he said.
“This planet is in big trouble and you have more than enough energy in this country to be self-sufficient you just have to change the way you use it. You don’t need to be building any more Indian Points,” said Neal, founder of Poughkeepsie-based Andy Neal Lighting (ANL). The company, which designs and sells prototypes for advanced LED lighting systems, also goes by the name LITgreen.
According to their website (www.andyneallighting.com), ANL provides LED fixtures that can help save about 80 percent of energy, are lead and mercury-free and have a lifespan of three to five times longer than traditional fluorescent lamps. An LED can stay lit for up to four hours a night for 30 years.
The more than 81,000 LEDs strung along the mile-and-a-half Walkway cost about $1.80 an hour to run. “Our innovative system makes it possible to light the entire Walkway with as little energy as it takes to operate an average home clothes dryer,” Neal said in a press release. “At this very moment we are moving from the season of lights into a new age of light that will change the world.” (The lights will only be turned on for special events for the immediate future, as the Walkway seeks more funding to run them on a consistent basis.)
Over 400 tubes were installed in 43 sections of the bridge, but only on one side (facing south) to fend off light pollution, or misused light. “If you’re walking across at night, what you don’t want to have is light in your eye. You also don’t want light in the sky. You need the vista around you. You need to be able to see the stars. You need to be able to see the city,” said Neal. “And because the tubes are only an inch in diameter, what we can do is put them on the back face of the handrails. You can angle them down so that they literally just light the actual concrete decking to the other side of the bridge.”
Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) commented on the Walkway project. “This new lighting system will make the Walkway even better for the thousands of pedestrians and cyclists who enjoy the soaring views of the river as they cross the bridge each week,” said Hinchey, who secured $874,000 for the Walkway lights. “The fact that we are able to light up a bridge that is over one mile long without causing light pollution and by using such a small amount of energy is a testament to the innovation and technological advances that are happening right here in the Hudson Valley. Andy Neal and the hard-working people at the Mid-Hudson Workshop deserve credit for doing such a brilliant job.”