Having popular attractions in a city can raise its value and increase the public’s desire to visit it; this is one of the cornerstones of tourism. Companies and city officials know this, which is why Vegas is so popular. It’s bright, it’s shiny, it has attractions all over, and people flock there every year.
But casinos and live shows aren’t the only way to get people to visit a city or to get tourists to spend their hard-earned money there.
That’s something that New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo believes, and he defends the idea most adamantly. The state official has stated that he plans to install multicolored LED lights in all the bridges and tunnels in New York City to drive up tourism.
The idea of creating a city of lights isn’t a new one. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel had the same idea back in 2015, looking to use lights to create a midwestern tourist city. The difference is Gov. Cuomo is going through with it and using part of the state budget to do so.
This drew complaints that the money could be better used to fix the city’s accident-prone subway systems. And the Governor’s office was hesitant to disclose how much the project would cost at first, but estimates were made that it could cost between $216 million and $350 million dollars.
One of the detractors, Executive Director of Reinvent Albany John Kaehny, commented that he wanted the Governor to produce an economic impact study. The company Kaehny represents is a non-profit that focuses on government transparency, and he believes that the people should have the right to look at whether the lighting project or fixing the subway system should be implemented.
“In the middle of the biggest subway service meltdown in decades, is this really the smartest way to spend what are essentially transit funds?” Kaehny asked. “Given the fact that the subways are the economic driver of the city, which is the economic driver of the state, you have to wonder how it’s possible you get a bigger bang for buck with colored lights over making subways work for people so that they can get to work on time.”
Gov. Cuomo’s aides did state that the project will probably be funded through a financing agreement between two major state run agencies, Empire State Development Corp and the New York Power Authority.
“We are still in the process of finalizing the design scheme, scoping and schedule of the project and any discussion of cost at this point are speculative,” said Cuomo’s spokeswoman Abbey Fashour.
The lighting plan calls for LED illumination of the seven main bridges and two tunnels operated by the MTA. These locations include the Henry Hudson, Whitestone, Throgs Neck, Robert F. Kennedy, Verrazano-Narrows, Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges, and Cross Bay Veterans Memorial bridges, and the Queens Midtown and Hugh L. Carey Brooklyn Battery tunnels.
LEDs were chosen because they’re the most popular lighting style on the market, expected to account for 53% of the global market by 2019.
Cuomo stated that the bridges would, on special occasions, be synchronized to match the colors of the Empire State Building and One World Trade Center, hoping they “could be an international tourist attraction.”