600,000 LEDs provide a holiday glow in Brooklyn

Dec. 21, 2006
Illuminating the landmark Prospect Park with 600,000 LED lights for the holidays proved to be a unique design and technical challenge.
LED waves How do you create the largest holiday lighting installation in Brooklyn? Take one 80-foot-high and 80-foot-wide Memorial Arch, an assortment of beaux arts architectural elements by McKim, Mead & White, two bronze statues of rearing horses by Frederick MacMonnies, and an elegant fountain presided over by a statue of Neptune.

Then, design a lighting installation that will not harm these landmark-law protected structures, will withstand winter weather, and has to work off of the limited power sources available along the perimeter of 585-acre Prospect Park.

These were just some of the challenges faced by the project team brought together by the Prospect Park Alliance to create Prospect Park in Lights. This large-scale lighting installation at four of Prospect Park’s entrances was funded by a donation from the New York Daily News and its publisher Mort Zuckerman, granted to the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City.

On November 27, Mayor Michael Bloomberg flipped the switch to turn on the eye-catching illuminations, which will remain on view through January 7, 2007.

Lighting designer Jim Conti, an Associate Professor of Interior Design at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, sought to celebrate different aspects of nature in his design for Prospect Park in Lights. Energy efficient LED lights are used to simulate the look of snowflakes frosting the ledges of monuments such as the Memorial Arch at Grand Army Plaza, and replicate blooming vines atop the Pergola at Parkside and Ocean Avenues.

Things got particularly challenging when it came to designing an installation of animated waves for the Bailey Fountain. Carla White, Project Manager for the Prospect Park Alliance, said that the Bailey Fountain design could not have been realized had it not been for a unique product – nets of LED lights – that were sourced from Light Waves Concepts, a company with operations in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn.

"Were it not for those nets of LEDs, which they custom sized for us, we faced the daunting prospect of having to weave together thousands of strands of LED Lights,” says White. “The nets of LEDs worked so well we used them throughout the project."

Number of LED lights at each location
Memorial Arch = 98,000 Tree under Arch = 158,000
Bailey Fountain = 160,000
Bartel-Pritchard Cirlce = 32,000 (16,000 each column)
Horse Tamers at Park Circle = 20,000 total (10,000 each statue)
Globes at Park Circle = 32,000 total (8,000 each)
Pergola at Parkside and Ocean = 90,000 total (45,000 each side)

White is also quick to praise the work of Bestek Lighting & Staging of Babylon Long Island, which fabricated the special armatures to support the LEDs and installed the lights at four locations around the Park.

“Bestek not only had the right technical expertise, they brought to the project a theatrical know-how from creating many entertainment and trade show events,” White said. “They worked from the designer’s drawings – often right there in the field making adjustments as necessary – to create something beautiful.”

The Street Lighting Division of the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT), the Engineering Division of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, and Brooklyn-based licensed electrical contractor, S.N. Tanner, worked together to bring power to the various sites around the Park where the Lights were installed. The project also called for the temporary upgrading of the sodium pressure lights that DOT uses to illuminate the Park’s architectural monuments with metal halide lights. These produce a better quality and “truer” light than the yellow-tinted sodium lights.

While uplighting poses no harm to the architectural elements, the Arts and Antiquities Division of the Parks Department was consulted on many other aspects of the project to ensure the monuments were fully protected from damage during installation of the LEDs. Security for the project at four entrances to the 585-acre Park was coordinated with the Parks Department’s Parks Enforcement Patrol, and the New York City Police Department.

“By no means was this an easy project to design, construct and now maintain for six weeks during winter,” said Tupper Thomas, President of the Prospect Park Alliance. “But every step along the way we’ve received so much encouragement from Mort Zuckerman and the Daily News, as well as the Mayor’s Office. They really wanted to create something new and unique for the holidays. In less than six months, the contractors, city agencies and our staff went from an initial concept to a big, festive event to turn on the Lights. It really has turned out to be fabulous.”

More information

Prospect Park in Lights can be viewed at four landmark gateways to the Park: Grand Army Plaza, including the iconic Soldier’s and Sailor’s Memorial Arch and the Bailey Fountain; Bartel-Pritchard Circle; Park Circle; and the Parkside and Ocean Avenue entrance to the Park.

Saturday and Sunday evenings thru January 7 there are free trolley tours around the Park. Midnight on December 31 there will be New Year’s Eve fireworks at Grand Army Plaza.

For trolley tour details, travel directions, and information on Prospect Park events, programs, membership, and volunteering, call the Park Hotline at (718) 965-8999, or visit Prospect Park.