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Freeport tests out solar-powered street lamp believed to be LI's first

Crews work on installing Long Island's first solar

Crews work on installing Long Island's first solar street lights on Hubbard St. in Freeport, Friday, May 22, 2015. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Freeport has lit what local officials say is Long Island's first battery-powered street lamp fueled solely by the sun.

"It's not connected to our electric grid at all," said Al Livingston, superintendent of the village's electric company.

The 21-foot-high street lamp and panel, manufactured by a New Jersey company, is being used as a test project on one block -- in front of 24 Hubbard Ave. in southeast Freeport.

The test results would affect seven one-block streets with about 30 homes each.

Mayor Robert Kennedy said the village is responding to street lighting concerns by area residents and calls for solar lighting at a public meeting he convened last June.

He also said concerns were raised about wiring new lights to poles in front of houses from current backyard setups.

"Underground and expensive," he said. "[But] after reviewing available lighting equipment for several months, Freeport Electric obtained a solar-powered street lamp and installed it," he said.

Later, in a letter to residents dated May 26, he said: "We will be analyzing the fixture for reliability, lighting range, brightness, cost, and general effectiveness."

Livingston later said the study would last "months."

After two weeks, the street lamp has drawn a mixed reaction. "I hate it," said Donna Destefano, who lives near the lamp. "It looks like something at [the old] Shea Stadium. It reminds me so much of a baseball field rather than a residential neighborhood."

She said village workers lowered the lamp after she complained the light was shining into an upstairs bedroom.

Her immediate neighbor, Joyce Clougher, said the fixture would make the street look "ugly" -- and that was while it still lay on the ground just before going on the pole on May 22.

But others on the block, also close to the street lamp, saw it differently. "I think solar is a good way to go. I like it," Dorothy Ness said.

Denise Nestor said she plans to write to the mayor and say the solar-powered light is great and that "we need more of them."But one attendee at the June meeting, who is still asking for more street lamps, said he doesn't like the new fixture and that the mayor has failed to keep promises.

Kevin McKay, who lives in the area but not on Hubbard Avenue, said, "We're not getting what we need and were promised: that the whole project for our [seven-block] area was to refurbish existing lights and add more because it is dark down here. It was supposed to be in by last October."

Kennedy said that was before the idea for solar lights came up. He went on to say that "using solar-powered lighting was . . . overwhelmingly supported among the residents who attended the [June] meeting. Deciding to explore this option was the right thing to do."

In his letter, he called for comments and promised a public meeting "to review the comments and suggestions . . . [to] help determine the outcome of this project."

A news release by the manufacturer, Smart City, said Freeport could buy up to 25 of the lamps and panels. But officials there refused to price the fixtures. "It's a trade secret," said Alex Stern, a company representative.

Kennedy said if it gets that far, "it'll be put out for bid."


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