Friday Question of the Day

IMG_5827, originally uploaded by Prince of Petworth.

Penn Quarter Living already wrote a post on this (and have a better picture than me) but I still think it needs more discussion. So without further ado, is Chinatown too bright? Have you been to Chinatown at night lately, it is like walking around in a football stadium it is so bright. Obviously it feels very safe this way, but is it too much? It is frankly a bit jarring. How do you feel about the 1000 wattage going on in Chinatown?

Ed note: I still call this area Chinatown and will always call it Chinatown, next they’ll want me to call Hell’s Kitchen – Clinton and I’ll never do that.

30 Comment

  • The metro station was actually called just ‘Gallery Place” for about a decade and a half, until the 80s. And the Friendship Arch came in only 2000.

  • Prince Of Petworth

    What was it called before Gallery Place?

  • Oops! Sorry, i meant the 80s as well for the Friendship Arch.

  • Personally I like it. Cities are suppose to have alot of lights…. If you dont like it, you should move out of downtown dc and move to Petworth…..

  • it’s our own little bright times square…

  • I think it’s fine, really. Chinatown/Gallery Place/Penn Quarter/Whatever is quickly turning into the focal point of DC’s downtown–aside from providing added safety, the “Chinatown lights” add to the ambiance and energy of the area. I know there are a number of people who prefer their neighborhoods–even the more urban ones–to be a little more “proper” and not very “loud”. But I say bring it on. Clearly, no one wants to see an entire city that looks like this–but a for a few block radius in the middle of downtown, it’s fine as far as I’m concerned.

  • VerizonTown…Disney World. All those lights are just a waste of energy…Anyway, Chin, errr Verizontown sucks.

  • Yeah. I haven’t been there at night since about 1993 before the Verizon Center was even up and there was a street/clubware store in the old pedestrian mall in front of what is now the Spy Museum. I actually can’t think of the last time I went out in DC below Florida. Two years ago, maybe?

  • I think it should be called “Bridge and Tunnel Town”.. DC residents are as rare
    in that part of the city as they are at Nationals games….

  • The siding around the vinyl window makes it look like a mobile home dropped on top of a rowhouse. Terrible. I guess that these contractors make money with these ugly rehab flip jobs, but it’s a crying shame. At least the contractors that rehabed our house had the decency to leave the outside alone and leave the original trim and wood floors on the inside… though they cut corners otherwise (like they all do).

  • Oops! Somehow I posted this here instead of the other article about the the converted rowhouse… I must be going batty. Er.. wait… I blame PoP! He tricked me somehow.

    Er… regarding this one… er… “Forget it Jake, It’s Chinatown.” 🙂

  • Too bright.

    International Dark Sky Association: “Our mission is to preserve and protect the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark skies through quality outdoor lighting.”

    I am in no way affiliated with this organization; I just support their effort.

  • On a related note, I had a very surreal experience on the 7th St. sidewalk shortly after all that construction finished. It was relatively quiet, around the holidays, and Louis Armstrong was being piped in over those outdoor speakers. Felt like a creepy movie – but hey, I kind of like a street having a soundtrack. Do they still pipe out music? It’s gotten too loud for me to notice of late.

  • Prince Of Petworth

    I haven’t heard any outdoor music being piped but I would be totally psyched to hear some Louis Armstrong being blasted. It would help me get a little more glide in my stride…

  • I do like it, honestly. It is a little Times Square-y but it has a lot of energy, especially for a part of DC that was formally very, very dead at night.

    As for being Chinatown, I’m fine with the decline of the Chineseness there (I am Chinese, by the way). They’ve all decamped to Rockville or other suburbs anyways.

  • For the number of people at night, I bet there’s less crime. A direct result of the bright lights. Light at night = safety. It’s all commercial there. I have no problem with that.

  • More light = less crime?
    Then there must be no crime during the day. oh . . . .

  • “International Dark Sky Association: “Our mission is to preserve and protect the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark skies through quality outdoor lighting.”

    I’m not sure what they mean by “quality outdoor lighting”, but I’m guessing they mean “less”.

    Which I would support, most of the time. And really, for a major city, D.C. isn’t really that bright. In fact, I’ve noticed quite a number of city blocks downtown that I’ve felt could actually use *more* light. But, again, we’re talking about a few city blocks in the downtown of a large metropolis. I don’t see a problem with some additional light to brighten things up.

  • “Then there must be no crime during the day”

    Clever. But it’s no great secret that that crime is typically more prevalent at night, and it’s no secret that well-lit blocks and neighborhoods help to counteract that.

  • The visitors from Hong Kong probably look around our city and ask “why is it so dark around here?” Even in Chinatown.

  • Actually 14th, there is absolutely no evidence to support lights, or other “broken window” type tactics do a thing to lower crime rate[*]. But it makes people feel much better, like taking shoes off at the airport, so no harm, no foul. If people have less apprehension about a statistically unlikely event (being a victim of crime on the street) when the lights are on then I’m all for it, in hopes it reduces our national crime obsession ever so slightly.

    [*] The National Institute of Justice (USDOJ) presented their first lighting study to Congress in February 1977 and noted that “In particular, while there is no statistically significant evidence that street lighting impacts the level of crime, especially if crime displacement is taken into account, there is a strong indication that increased lighting – perhaps lighting uniformity – decreases the fear of crime.” (Tien, J. M. (1977) Street lighting projects. National evaluation program, Phase 1 summary report . Washington DC: National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice). In 1997, the NIJ revisited the issue with an even more comprehensive report( on crime prevention to the US Congress. The following quotes are from “Conclusions for Open Urban Places” (Chapter 7): “Not much has changed since [the 1977] critical assessment of the impact of lighting on crime. We may speculate that lighting is effective in some places, ineffective in others, and counter productive in still other circumstances. Consider lighting at outside ATM machines, for example. An ATM user might feel safer when the ATM and its immediate surrounding area are well lit. However, this same lighting makes the patron more visible to passing offenders. Who the lighting serves is unclear. Lighting has received considerable attention. Yet, evaluation designs are weak and the results are mixed. We can have very little confidence that improved lighting prevents crime, particularly since we do not know if offenders use lighting to their advantage. In the absence of better theories about when and where lighting can be effective, and rigorous evaluations of plausible lighting interventions, we cannot make any scientific assertions regarding the effectiveness of lighting. In short, the effectiveness of lighting is unknown.”

  • I tend to agree with Reuben on this one…it really isn’t an area that folks who live here frequent. The only time I head down to Chinatown is to see a movie…I’ve attempted to bowl there, but I’ll be damned if I am going into a bowling alley with a freakin’ “dress code!”

    But back to your point. The lights are good. Tourists buying $8 burgers at Fuddruckers and $35 t-shirts at Urban Outfitters helps all of us out (well, at least when our tax dollars aren’t getting bilked by greedy public servants). It makes people fell safe…that is good!

  • I read the report, Oden, and the inconclusiveness of the study stemmed from, among other things, an unknown variable as to whether or not criminals used the lights to their advantage when planning an attack. The report indicates several examples where public areas that had improved street lighting did in fact see a reduction in crime.

    I could buy the “criminals could use lighting” argument in a less-populated part of the city, perhaps, but not in an area as popular and full of people as Chinatown. Criminals know that there are plenty of potential targets there, it’s not something they would need lightin to realize. And in an area that remains rife with aggressive panhandlers, drug dealing and other such unsavory elements–albeit at significantly lesser levels from a decade ago–I would argue that the significant amount of street lighting in the area is, in fact, having a positive affect on the public safety of the neighborhood–ten year old inconclusive studies notwithstanding. I do agree with you, though, that lighting also helps people feel safer, regardless of whether or not those feelings are actually justified. And that, too, is a positive thing.

  • I love Chinatown in any city! Love the lights! Gives the neighborhood energy. Every city needs a little night lite action.

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  • I think the lights are a good idea especially given the history of criminal activity in the area before many of the original Chinese businesses moved out of the area. The problem is that the lights are mostly on the 7th Street corridor. Go a block east and things get darker and there are more panhandler, drunks and other unsavory characters lurking about especially in the vicinity of the “mom-and-pop” store. Unfortunately this prevents a lot of foot traffic to some of Chinatown’s more eclectic eateries.

  • In NY they’ve got those lights that give a yellow glow. They are just slightly irritating enough to make you not want to hang out on the street. I hear they make some people nauseous. There are definitely a few corners we could use these

  • I’m OK with it. It gives me a false sense of security.

  • I think they ought to try it on Columbia Heights, like that war zone up!

  • I meant light that war zone up!

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