200 Car Headlights Shining In Your Bedroom Window: Blessing? Or Curse?

A forbidding prison building painted orange by bright floodlights
hotel new jersey photo by Kai Schreiber is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
New Jersey State Prison

Surveillance is a touchy subject in neighbourhoods where a majority of citizens have good reason to believe they are the victims of prejudice.

On the other hand, home security is a benefit that everyone appreciates.

So the 2014 test-case installation of floodlights in 12 New York City Housing Association (NYCHA) projects were bound to raise some uncomfortable questions. Who are the perpetrators that the lighting is meant to repel? Incoming lawbreakers? Or the residents themselves?

The experiment was nonetheless deemed a success, and forty more NYCHA projects have been protected by floodlights, each the equivalent of 200 car headlights1.

And that has caused a videographer to raise an important aesthetic issue. Is it possible to live in a successful, healthy, thriving community which nightly is lit up like a prison? Would more gentrified communities — also concerned about crime — ever even consider putting up with such a treatment, regardless of a shrinkage in crime rates?

Videographer Nadia Hallgren unpacks some of these issues in a Documentary short entitled Omnipresence. Read more in the New Yorker: The Controversial Floodlights Illuminating New York City’s Public-Housing Developments


  1. Other cities, seeing the success, are getting on board. Try: One Bright Idea To Clamp Down On Public Housing Lawbreakers

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