A la recherche du lampes perdu

Sorry for paraphrasing your classic, Marcel, but after NYC has now replaced virtually all its everyday lamppost luminaires (light bulbs and the hardware that houses them, for 95% of FNY readers who aren’t into lamppost minutiae) I got to thinking about some of the local Little Neck lamppost anachronisms I found after I moved in on July 1, 2007. I found that the city had been somewhat more lax in replacing some 1960s-era items in Little Neck, and I attributed that to its relatively remote nature, as far as NYC goes, lying at the extreme northeast of Queens.

I set about snapping pictures here and there because I knew the inevitable would happen and these lights would be replaced by more modern ones. I hadn’t counted on the throughness the Department of Transportation would set about this task and not only that, would go about replacing pretty much every light that wasn’t attached to a classic cast iron retro model with a single lamp species — the 2009 version of the General Electric M400. A great deal of monotony has, therefore, taken hold on the NYC streetlighting scene.













This General Electric “scoop” type luminaire — to me it resembles an ice cream scoop — was monted on 40th Avenue between Little Neck Parkway and Westmoreland Street from the early 1960s until 2009. On side streets, these lights, which were probably cheaper because they didn’t have glass reflector bowls — largely supplated the old crescent moon and radial wave incandescent lights that had formerly lit side streets from the 1920s through early 1960s.

I’m unable to find a model number on the internet, so fill me in.

A night view of the same light. These were mercury bulbs and burned a greenish white. When the bulbs aged, the light got dimmer. This one did the job till its retirement.

RIGHT: a look at the GE M400 that replaced the light.

This is an example of the prior version of the GE M400, first introduced in 1958 and dominated NYC streets from about 1960 to the mid-1970s, when they began to be eased out by sodium lights that burn bright yellow. It stood on Marathon Parkway just south of Little Neck Parkway until 2009. RIGHT: another GE M400 on 21st Street in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

These lamps had an annoying tendency to buzz loudly when first firing up at dusk.

They pretty much divided streetlighting duties with the Westinghouse OV25 Silverliner ( see below). I’ve had to say the GE’s edged out the Westies, though some neighborhoods were dominated by the OV25s.

Side streets were another matter, with non-glass reflector bowl GEs and Westies also dividing the territory.

Another GE “scoop” style lamp, formerly on 155th Street south of Sanford Avenue, Flushing.

Jostling for domination with the GE M400s were the Westinghouse OV25 Silverliners, like the one shown here that was on Wallabout Street near Classon in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. (Actually my all time favorite luminaire, and I considered them underdogs to the GE 1960s pre-eminence.)


An earlier Westinghouse, the AK10 Cuplight, was once seen on NYC streets by the thousands. A few remain in out of the way locales and under overpasses; this one lit a park on East 4th near Avenue M in Midwood, Brooklyn. When I first spottted this in the mid-1970s, its bulb was already missing.

Nassau County isn’t quite as diligent in policing its streetlamp stock. Here are two remaining incandescent burners on Shore road, Port Washington and the Cuttermill Road LIRR overpass in Great Neck.

I know it’s a Lamps page but here are a couple of vintage street signs near my house. The sign at 54th and Thornhill in Little Neck was taken down soon after this photo was taken in 2007, but the 1964-era 234th Street sign, with its partner on Union Turnpike, might still be there.

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