Friday, June 03, 2005

Here comes the sun ... for $355,000 per park bench.

In New York City, a place where the sun vanishes for long stretches behind tall buildings, and sunny apartments command a premium, sunlight is taken very seriously. So seriously that the Battery Park City Authority is preparing to import sunlight into a foreboding spot in Lower Manhattan.

Three heliostats - instruments that use mirrors to track the sun across the sky - will redirect sunbeams onto what is currently a vacant lot in Lower Manhattan, but will next year become Teardrop Park South. Battery Park City hopes that if it provides a bit of light, people will want to linger there...

The park sits in the shadow of three skyscrapers. "The sun is up there," said Michael van Valkenburgh, the project's landscape architect. "It just can't find its way to where we want it."

Teardrop Park's heliostats, which are about eight feet across, were installed Tuesday on the roof of a new 23-story building overlooking the park. When they are running this fall, they will be guided by computer to track the movement of the sun, capture the light and then send it down to the park, where circles of light will be created.

Each heliostat can be directed to bathe a particular park bench or tree in a beam of light.

But the devices, which cost $355,000 apiece, can't do everything.... [NY Times, via the Minuteman]

Well, what more would a taxpayer expect $355,000 of equipment to do than light a particular park bench, or a tree? Assuming the day isn't cloudy....