History of New York’s red-green traffic lights

In the tight-knit world of signal collecting, I’m lucky to be able to chat with many other collectors and industry experts on forums and at meets, and there are a good number of them who really know their stuff.

There are a couple of guys who will forget more than I’ll ever know when it comes to controllers. A few of them can tell you what kind of signal is in a photo, the year it came out, what company bought out that company, the year that company was bought out, and the year that company closed down. And I’ll likely need both hands keep track of the guys who can instantly tell you the brand of a lens by the pattern in the glass, the years they were manufactured and used, and what signals they were used in.

New York City's Red and Green Lights: A Brief Look Back in Time, by Steven Gembara

New York City’s Red and Green Lights: A Brief Look Back in Time, by Steven Gembara

One of those guys can tell you everything you need to know about the history of New York’s red-green traffic lights that adorned the city’s streets.  New Jersey resident Steven Gembara took his knowledge a step further and wrote a book about it, “New York City’s Red & Green Lights – A Brief Look Back in Time”.

According to Steven, “The book contains several years worth of personal research, so I am glad that I was able to put everything down into words.”

Steven grew up in New York City. At a young age, he didn’t quite understand the traffic light, but it intrigued him. Over the years, he began learning more and even collected some of the hardware of New York City traffic and pedestrian control, including the iconic signal pictured on the cover of his book, the fixed-four-way Ruleta.

I’m generally happy with what I have accomplished. It was merely a personal goal.” said Steven. “I naturally don’t expect it to be a best seller, due to the unfamiliarity of the topic.

Personally, I can’t imagine that many vertical markets have a best-seller, but when writing about a subject that includes transportation, New York City, street furniture, and traffic control technology, that opens the door to other groups and potentially more eyeballs.

He also says, “I blindly chose this path, and gathering all the information and putting everything into words has been an exhausting, yet enjoyable experience for me.”

You can find Steven’s book on FastPencil.com. Barnes & Noble, and Amazon. I bought my copy and hope to have Steven sign it at some point. After all, how often can you get a book written about a subject that you’re really interested in, let alone, signed by the author that you’ve known for some time? How cool is that? Go buy! Now!

scroll to toptraffic signal behind meGlow-in-the-dark chain pull from the late 1960s/early 1970s, by Novelty Cord & Tassel Co., Inc. or Idemin Manufacturing Company in Brooklyn, New York and was Style TLC. I've had this since I was about 5 years old.