by Kevin Walsh

I think my favorite Forgotten NY posts are the ones where I get to talk specifically about NYC infrastructure, most of it managed by the Department of Transportation or Metropolitan Transit Authority. For example I’ve begun to think of elevated station platform lighting as legitimate a category as street lighting, and hopefully there are several posts in the offing regarding this.

The other Saturday I emerged from Penn Station in bright sun and meandered south on 9th Avenue, which I haven’t paid attention to for a few years. (I wandered north on it all the way to 96th Street a week later). I said bright sun, but soon a vicious rainstorm had me back in the subway back home. Naturally the sun returned late in the day.

I noticed a few things about the stoplights, the big ones with the thick masts and guy wired shafts. These have been around a long time, first introduced in 1953. But here and there, they have a different look.

Above on the title card, here at 9th Avenue and West 18th, the stoplight is normal and supports a cobra neck lamp mast. But on 9th Avenue in a few cases, the DOT for whatever reason left the original lamppost in place when the cobra neck was attached to the stoplight. For decades the DOT left it alone and an old GE M400 was left in place. In recent years, though, the DOT has relit it and in the past few years placed LED fixtures on both, so this corner gets twice the light as normal.

A protected bike lane was added to the east side of 9th Avenue (one-way south) a few years ago and this necessitated all the big stoplights to move over one lane. In some cases, the old stoplight mast was kept in place and does duty as a small stoplight and sign support. You can see that it takes power from the newer stoplight.

Within a few blocks of 14th Street, lampposts are painted black instead of the usual gray/silver; the DOT sets off several shopping districts in this manner.

After 60 years depending on straight masts, cobra neck masts, and the separate-species Deskeys, the DOT added a new contender around 2010, the davit post, in which the shaft itself curves over the street and becomes its own mast, supporting the lamp. Also over the past 20 years, The DOT has slapped just about every streetlamp conceivable atop the big stoplights, not only the modern cobras and davits bit also Corvington, Bishop Crook and Twinlamp retro versions. (Actually I like this mix and match aspect).

As always, “comment…as you see fit.” I earn a small payment when you click on any ad on the site.



Peter June 16, 2022 - 8:47 pm

I never knew some shopping districts were marked off in that way.

S.+Saltzman June 19, 2022 - 3:50 pm

This is a classic catch 22 case. That rusting old pole should have been removed when the overhead traffic lights( M2A pole) was installed in the early 1960’s, replacing the old red green post mounted signals. But there is a fire alarm box mounted on the pole. The pole can’t be removed until the fire alarm box is removed. And the fire alarm box can’t be replaced until the pole is removed.
But after almost 60 years, there appears to be something stirring. In your photo you’ll notice that there is a new fire alarm pedestal next to the fire hydrant. And that “ Accessible Pedestrian Signals” have been installed. Neither of these items are on the street view from July 2021. I would imagine that the engineer who designed the APS installation for this intersection noticed the pole and initiated the response from the Communication Division of the FDNY. So this pole will be gone sometime in the next twenty years.
Another pole like this but more interesting is( or was on street view as of 7-21) at 50th street and ninth avenue. Same situation with the fire alarm box. But this pole was in the fluorescent street lighting area of ninth avenue. It still has the short arm that was used for the General Electric fluorescent street light luminaire.

Kevin Walsh June 19, 2022 - 4:47 pm

I noticed that about 50th St. Last trace of the Whiteways.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.