vincent jackson | Staff writer

ATLANTIC CITY — Michael “Gidget” Maltese, the bartender at the Rainbow Room, remembers how dark it was on his club’s street when it opened in April 2013.

But since the city began installing brighter LED lighting in the neighborhood two years ago, lighting on Bellevue Avenue is good, Maltese said.

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The city will start again in the spring converting its street lights to light-emitting diodes, or LEDs.

A $2 million state Board of Public Utilities grant last year is helping with the conversion. If the city converts its entire street-light system to LEDs, it would be the first in the state to do so.

“They save money. They allow for a greenhouse (gas) emission reduction. It’s a clearer and brighter light,” said Mayor Don Guardian, who added the bulbs last at least 20 years.

About 200 LEDs were installed last summer along the Boardwalk, he said.

In 2015, the first 100 were installed between Texas and Georgia avenues, from the Boardwalk to the bay, in the Ducktown neighborhood.

“It is so much brighter on Bellevue Avenue,” Guardian said.

John Exadaktilos, manager of the Ducktown Tavern at Atlantic and Georgia avenues, said the LEDs nearest his establishment were installed last year.

“LED is better than regular standard (lighting),” Exadaktilos said.

Illumination in the area is important because unlike Pleasantville, which has mostly single-family homes, the city has terraces and alleyways where criminals can dip, dive and hide.

Exadaktilos said he also spent $18,000 to brighten the outside of his restaurant, and he plans to buy more lighting.

LEDs will save the city $250,000 annually in energy costs, Guardian has said. Cities switching to LEDs have experienced an estimated 12 percent decrease in crime, he said.

Mohammad Mollah, manager of the Atlantic City Discount Store and De Avenue Furniture on Atlantic Avenue, said a lack of light near his stores encourages crime.

The dark aids criminals, said Sgt. Kevin Fair, public affairs officer for the Police Department.

“Crime in Atlantic City is not centralized, and completing this excellent project throughout the city would give the police an advantage over those involved in crime by taking away places they could conceal themselves,” Fair said.

Besides the fact most of the city is not using LEDs, some standard street lighting is not at the wattage it should be.

Lights on Melrose Avenue at Rhode Island Avenue are 50 watts but should be 100 or 150 watts, Guardian said.

“On Atlantic and Pacific avenues, you want 400 watts with the cars turning and people crossing. You want 400 watts on a corner, which can go down to 150 watts (in the middle of the block),” Guardian said.

The $2 million grant can convert 2,500 street lights to LEDs. Atlantic City Electric owns 6,000 of the city’s lights, which the city pays it to maintain. The city owns 3,000 of the resort’s lights.

The LED project would resume on the city’s Northside, although the Westside and Bungalow Park neighborhoods also could use improved lighting, Guardian said.

“Everyone wants new lighting,” he said.

Converting all of its lights to LEDs, which is the plan, would cost the city $7 million, Guardian said.

The city has applied for $5 million more in a low-interest loan from the state Economic Development Authority, said Jim Rutala, the city’s grant consultant.

Twenty years as a staff writer in the features department, specializing in entertainment and the arts at The Press of Atlantic City.

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