The following article was written by Freelance Journalist Tom Bartley.
Bronxville residents who oppose the lights now being studied for Chambers Field have established a cyberspace beachhead from which to express their concerns and rally the support of others.
Billing themselves as the Bronxville Quality of Life Committee, the organizers have posted an online petition. It calls on Bronxville’s school board, which last month voted to spend $6,500 studying the lights’ feasibility, to halt any further consideration. School district officials and a number of parents say the lights could extend the field’s potential playing time, making it available to more student-athletes.
But other parents, including Tracey and Greg Gilliam, whose Field Court home looks out on Chambers Field, have a sharply different perspective. They’ve helped organize the petition drive, which has so far drawn 136 signatures. The petition reads in part, “Permanent lighting on a sports field in such a dense residential area strikes at the distinctive character and overall architectural quality of the Village of Bronxville.”
Moreover, the petition notes, residents made a similar 100-signature entreaty when the school district was installing an artificial-turf surface in 2005. That petition prompted the school board to assure residents that permanent lighting would not be installed at the Chambers site. “The lighting issue, we thought, was decided,” Greg says. “Obviously, we were wrong.”
His petition insists that the school board keep its word, saying, “The integrity of this assurance must be maintained to preserve the iconic character of the Bronxville community, limit existing pollution and preserve property values.”
The petition urges school officials not to spend “any resources” examining a permanent light installation. The school board has said it will hold as many as three meetings with residents to review findings of the light study, being conducted by KG&D Architects, which is based out of Mount Kisco.
Findings of the study, meant to determine whether the proposed lighting meets state standards for environmental impact and light trespass, are expected to be presented to the school board in the fall, officials said. “There will be multiple opportunities for community input,” the board said in a statement, before any decision is made on installing the lights.
Proponents of the lights cite the village’s limited number of athletic fields and the growing demand in Bronxville for places in which athletes can compete. One popular statistic, quoted by both administration and school board officials, puts the use of Chambers Field in this school year at 19 teams and 415 participants compared with 10 years ago, when the numbers were 10 teams, 269 participants.
Lights would permit competition to run later into the evening, helping to accommodate the increasing number of players.
Greg Gilliam, in a written statement, acknowledges “the value of sports to a child's development as well as the focus they can bring to a community when they compete.” But, he notes, “the negative consequences from the addition of permanent lighting will be certain and irreparable. For many, field lighting will impact fundamental aspects of daily life such as eating and sleeping, especially for the younger and older among us. Is such an impact really worth the perceived benefit of a few hours of extra recreation? I don't think so.”
In the words of the petition, the proposed “lighting facilities, however limited, cannot help but to have a deleterious effect on the nature of our community and threaten the very qualities that attract so many to Bronxville.”
Residents and others signing the petition agree. Elizabeth Maher, another Field Court resident and field neighbor, says lighting it for nighttime use would have “a huge and permanent negative effect on life in Bronxville and . . . seriously diminish property values for all.”
Edward Marrinan, a Summit Avenue resident, sees “no good reason for [the school board] to backtrack on its original commitment to not install permanent lighting.” The neighborhood would unnecessarily experience a “significant increase in light, noise and traffic pollution,” Marrinan says, while increased vehicular and pedestrian traffic would outpace the capacity to accommodate them. “Permanent lighting will attract more non-local usage of the field, raising concerns about security, maintenance and vandalism,” he warns.
Saying the proposed lights are “not in the best interest of the community,” Amy Freed, whose Garden Avenue home is also near Chambers Field, insists such illumination is “ugly, disturbing to the landscape, [and] promotes after-hours use.”