By Carol Tannenhauser
The New York City Council unanimously passed a bill Thursday to help prevent birds from flying into buildings, a phenomenon that’s estimated to kill 90,000 to 230,000 birds migrating through New York City every year.
Primarily sponsored by outgoing Upper West Side City Councilmember, Helen Rosenthal, the “Lights Out for Birds Bill” will address one of the major causes of the collisions, which birder and WSR contributor Alex Israel called “light pollution.”
“Building glass is one of two major hurdles for approximately one hundred species of birds that traverse the Atlantic Flyway headed north in the spring and south in the fall,” Israel explained. “Reflective glass confuses birds—especially when situated near parks—as they mistake what they see in the reflection (e.g. trees and sky) for the real thing and fly towards it. Clear glass can be an issue too; with appealing foliage behind it, the birds may head towards it in search of shelter or food. The other hurdle is light pollution, which draws birds in during their nighttime migration and disorients them, making them even more prone to collisions.”
The new law requires all City-owned and leased buildings to turn off non-essential outdoor lights from 11 p.m. – 6 a.m. during peak avian migratory periods. It will have the added benefit of reducing the City’s energy consumption, Rosenthal’s spokesperson pointed out.
The bill was one of six sponsored by Rosenthal and passed by the City Council in a late-term flurry of legislative activity. Term-limited out, Rosenthal will be replaced by Gale Brewer in January 2022. During her tenure, Rosenthal has sponsored several bills aimed at improving the lives of individuals with vulnerabilities and disabilities and women. Here is a summary of the latest bills to pass the council, provided by Rosenthal’s office:
Salary Ranges for All Job Postings – Int. 1208-2018-B
On average women make 86 cents for every dollar white men make, black and brown women make 50-65% of what white men are paid. This bill requires that all job postings include the minimum and maximum salary offered. Pay transparency brings us one step closer to pay equity.
Street Harassment Advisory Board – Int 2424-2021-B
Women, minorities, the LGBTQI+ community, and people with disabilities are most often on the receiving end of street harassment. This bill requires the City to establish a street harassment prevention advisory board, with a broad membership, to study harassment (including an annual survey), provide public education, and identify more effective, community-based responses.
Open Captions in Movie Theaters – Int 2020-2020-A
Roughly one in five New Yorkers suffers from deafness, ranging from moderate to total. Such a significant segment of the population deserves to fully enjoy movies with ease. This bill requires open captioned (sub-titled) film screenings in NYC movie theaters — with up to four open captioned screenings per film every week.
Building Light Restrictions to Protect Birds – Int 0274-2018-A
During peak migratory bird season, NYC buildings with outdoor lights are death magnets for between 90,000-230,000 birds who collide with glass each year. This bill requires all City owned buildings to turn off non-essential outdoor lights from 11pm-6am, during peak avian migratory periods.
Victim-centric Training for NYPD (DV, Sexual Assault & Human Trafficking) – Int 2439-2021-A
This bill recognizes the severe trauma of survivors of domestic or sexual violence and human trafficking. All police officers who interact with the public will be required to receive comprehensive victim-centered, trauma-informed questioning training. The bill also requires that the City investigate the causes of domestic violence fatalities and make every effort to identify and implement policy changes and fund programs to reduce the stubbornly high number of fatalities.
Video Voter Guides – 2438-2021-A
NYC Campaign Finance Board research makes clear that neighborhoods with limited English proficiency and a high number of residents with disabilities often have lower voter participation compared to other neighborhoods across New York City. This bill opens the door for higher voter participation by requiring that printed voter guides include the top ten spoken languages in NYC and braille/large print. It also requires that candidates participate in video voter guides, which will include close captioning and ASL. Candidates who chose not to participate in the videos will not receive the final five percent of campaign matching funds.