Since I began photography for FNY in 1998 I have chanced upon these small, ridged stoplight posts I dubbed “Olives” because they were inevitably painted olive green. They could still be found in some far flung city outpost here and there, but nearly all carried some variant on the Marbleite stoplight, which is rather more streamlined than this variety manufactured by the Ruleta Corp.
This configuration was once king of traffic control, as they were mounted catercorner, two to each interesection. On one-way streets, the lights were covered in one direction as they were not needed. Though there were three-light variations including the central amber light, the vast majority carried just two lights, with a simulataneous red and green standing for caution when the light was about to go red.
Ruletas seem to have first appeared in the mid to late 1920s and appeared first on taller posts resembling the longarmed Corvingtons, but with an auto wheel motif. Soon after, tens of thousands of Olives appeared. They ruled until the mid-1980s, when a massive Department of Transportation replacement program converted them to cylindrical aluminum poles and more often, the massive guy-wired stoplights that first appeared in the 1950s.
However, I didn’t know till recently that the Ruletas had a stronghold in Forest Hills Gardens, a semiprivate neighborhood in central Queens. There they were permitted to remain until the mid-1990s, just a short time before Forgotten New York began production.
The woolly mammoth didn’t survive long after humans began hunting them, and neither did the Ruletas survive the DOT. The FHG Ruletas were goners by 1998.
Photo courtesy Howard Fein.