Great Neck trustees frame LED lights as safety issue

Great Neck trustees frame LED lights as safety issue
Mayor Pedram Bral addresses a resident at a previous village board meeting. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

The Village of Great Neck’s board meeting turned into a heated discussion about its decision-making process and the safety of LED lights on Tuesday following a review of a Harvard study involving light and cancer.

Rebecca Gilliar, a civic activist and former mayoral candidate, peppered the board with questions about whether the village considered people who could be affected by an eye condition and if it had statistics on traffic fatalities.

She accused the board of “not consulting the rest of the community” about its plan to install LED streetlights throughout the village and the mayor of being hostile to people who question officials.

“You’re not susceptible to any discussion about what might be the down factor, you demonize the people that oppose you and you demonize the people who actually bring you interesting information,” Gilliar said.

Trustees took issue with this characterization and said that the lights are safe. They said they had five meetings discussing LED lights, studied their effects extensively and invited the public to presentations from their consultants.

They also framed the issue of LED lights as one of safety and “common sense,” with their installation being necessary to properly illuminate streets and prevent accidents.

“To just go ahead and be in opposition does not move the village forward,” Mayor Pedram Bral said at the meeting.

Amy Glass, an outspoken critic of LED lights, said she had presented studies to the trustees to try and inform them. But she felt personally attacked by some of their remarks.

“I never saw myself as an opponent… I saw myself as a resource,” Glass told the board.

Leon Korobow, a longtime resident of the village, attended one of the presentations. He said that he believed village officials had done their due diligence on this issue.

“I’m listening to this discussion and I see it going around and around in circles, and I have to say, I don’t agree with most of what Mrs. Gilliar was saying about process and about representative government,” Korobow said.

“We elected you to make decisions. That’s why you’re there. If you don’t do a good job, you’ll be unelected, like you did to the previous administration.”

The study that prompted the LED light discussion focused on the risk of breast cancer among  night shift workers exposed to LED lights. It  was sent to Mayor Bral by Laura Weinberg, president of the Great Neck Breast Cancer Coalition.

Weinberg, who was not at the meeting, said in an interview that the study was worth reviewing because it was conducted by Harvard and that the “breast cancer community nationwide is concerned about light.”

But, she said, she is trying to speak with the researchers before giving any formal presentation.

“I’m really trying to connect with one of the researchers right now because I like information that’s factual, on point, and legitimate,” Weinberg said.

Bral highlighted at the meeting that the study showed it found cancers only in past and current smokers. He described the the increased risk as insignificant.

“We have to stop sending false message out there to people that we are trying to do something just to save some money and not really pay attention to how many lives we can save by having proper lights in our streets,” Bral added.

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