East New York Pedestrian Lighting Project
Brooklyn, NY | 1998 | 6 city blocks | $350,000
In 1998, founder/principal Linnaea Tillett conducted a pilot project to re-light a 6-block strip in East New York, a low-income, high-risk neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY. Using a combination of community organizing, environmental psychology and precise design, Tillett successfully challenged the traditional practice of flooding poor neighborhoods with high-intensity “anti-crime” lighting.
Rather than trying to “make the streets safer,” lighting was used to support the community’s cherished buildings in this non-commercial district. In addition to Central Park-style fixtures mounted to existing wood electrical poles, low-maintenance yet attractive fixtures highlight the community center, library, and historic church as well as key pedestrian pathways, including a dark subway underpass that was painted white and then up-lit.
All equipment was carefully mounted and focused so as to prevent light from spilling into surrounding residences. Treating aesthetic and practical solutions as inseparable, even when constrained by minimal resources, made small but significant changes in the neighborhood including increased library attendance.
Tillett’s design approach was then used by the New York City Department of Transportation to develop pedestrian lighting guidelines for community boards throughout the city. The project pioneered a “social approach” to lighting now used in a multitude of successful project across the country.