Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

For Some, Progress Shines Too Brightly

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

For Some, Progress Shines Too Brightly

Article excerpt

As they move through Fort Lee, eastbound drivers approaching the George Washington Bridge just before sundown can't help but bathe uncomfortably in the intense glow of the dazzling glass tower that's slowly reaching into the sky.

The 47-story luxury high-rise -- called The Modern -- is being billed as a huge attraction for the little borough by the Hudson, but the blinding glare has made some Manhattan-bound motorists look away and scream.

"What was the Planning Board thinking?" asked Bob Bogert after he and his wife squinted through the toll plaza. "Fort Lee seems to have missed something when they allowed a glass-sided structure at that location."

Borough officials deflected such un-sunny comments, noting that glare is always strongest in early fall and spring, when the sun rises almost exactly east and sets almost exactly west, making it low enough to the horizon to zap drivers directly in the eyes. Police said complaints were few and road crashes were no worse than usual.

"This won't last long," insisted Mayor Mark Sokolich.

Reflected sunlight from The Modern is just another example of a temporary, little-understood phenomenon: Glare kills about 200 people each year nationwide, most of them east-west commuters. Federal bean counters think the number is higher, because police generally don't keep glare statistics.

But based on Road Warrior mail, typically blinding commutes include Routes 3, 4 and 80, Hillsdale Avenue in Hillsdale and the entrance to Hackensack High School off Beech Street -- to name only a few.

September gripes about this phenomenon are hardly unusual, but late-afternoon gripers normally are heading west into the sun, not east into Manhattan. Besides offering 450 luxury rental apartments and spectacular views of New York City, The Modern manages to reverse this dynamic by bouncing the sun's rays into the eyes of eastbound drivers.

"It felt like somebody shined a Bat-Signal into our faces," Bogert recalled.

The Park Ridge reader said the glare was so strong that neither his polarized sunglasses nor his windshield visor could block it.

This complaint matches some of the criticisms of the $500 million plan that the developer fielded at borough Planning Board hearings in February and March 2012. …

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