NEW GUMBALLS, 1980-2015

by Kevin Walsh

It looks like the time has come to say sayonara to a relatively unchronicled and unappreciated genre of lampposts I call the New Gumballs because of their spherical shape and resemblance to an older genre from the incandescent era that many lamppost buffs (yes, there are many more besides me) call the Gumballs (shown at left) which were first produced in the 1940s and became a nearly universal form of street lighting for decades.

New York City’s New Gumballs first appeared around 1980 and proliferated on streets under elevated train, where they were mounted on short, L-shaped posts that were nearly invariably painted brown. Most other NYC lampposts are painted silver or gray.


The New Gumballs are actually Holophane “bucket lights” mounted in a spherical metal and glass reflector dish, shining sodium vapor bright yellow lights. Occasionally, they could be found on open air streets such as 6th Avenue sidewalks in Tribeca, but by and large, the New Gumballs held sway under elevated trains on such streets as Brooklyn’s Broadway, New Utrecht Avenue, and Stillwell Avenue, where they either replaced Dwarf lampposts or pendant lamps suspended from the elevated. In some stretches, the Dwarves held sway and the New Gumballs never replaced them.


Apparently the New Gumballs cannot be converted to the bright white Light Emitting Diode lamps that have gradually been taking over NYC street lighting. Thus, the New Gumballs are disappearing in favor of the above arrangement, Dwarf davit posts in which various makes of LED lighting are mounted. 

Goodbye, New Gumballs, we hardly knew ye!

Check out the ForgottenBook, take a look at the gift shop, and as always, “comment…as you see fit.”



John January 31, 2018 - 7:05 pm

Are there any left on the lower level of the V-N Bridge?

Kevin Walsh February 1, 2018 - 5:29 pm

That had “cups” which survived till just a few years ago. Now all Holophane buckets, will probably become LEDs soon.

rodney February 4, 2018 - 7:55 am

@John, they are all gone!

Sal February 1, 2018 - 9:22 am

The LED’s are too bright

Jason February 5, 2018 - 11:04 pm

Too bright and very sterile. No warmth to the light at all

Larry Rogak February 2, 2018 - 1:30 pm

The lower level of the Verrazano Bridge had suspended cup lights until a couple of years ago when, for reasons I’m not clear about, a new corrugated steel roof was installed below the existing roof (which also serves as the sub-floor for the upper deck roadway). This new roof was installed like a drop ceiling, a couple of feet below the existing roof, and it covered up the cup lights. New lights were installed into this drop ceiling. I don’t know whether the cup lights were left in place or removed.


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