The City’s A lot of Hated Bridge Gets an Almost $1 Billion Transformation

Motorists, cyclists and pedestrians admired the opening of the second span of the Kosciuszko Bridge, which links Brooklyn and Queens.


Credit Credit Gabby Jones for The New York City Times

Azi PaybarahNate Schweber

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A drive over the Kosciuszko Bridge, as soon as understood for traffic jams that might provoke the most sedate vehicle drivers into yelling expletives, prompted a different response from chauffeurs and bicyclists on Thursday: astonishment.

And that was during New york city’s morning rush hour.

The 2nd span of the cable-stayed Kosciuszko Bridge (probably pronounced ko-SHCH-OO-SH-ko), which links Brooklyn and Queens over Newtown Creek, opened to automobiles on Thursday as part of an $873 million project. The very first span opened in2017 Both periods changed the collapsing bridge that opened in 1939 and became a disliked crossing because of its choking traffic.

” It was great and not bumpy,” stated Ines Leong, 40, of Astoria, Queens, who operates in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and drove over the bridge on Thursday.

The new span has four Brooklyn-bound lanes; the other period has five Queens-bound lanes. Both periods have shoulders. The bridge likewise has a 20- foot-wide secured lane for bicyclists and pedestrians, who got to first experience it, and its views of Manhattan, on Wednesday.

Many early bridgegoers were impressed.


Credit Gabby Jones for The New York City Times

” The horizon looks a lot various now,” said Tom Bulger, 65, of Brooklyn, as he walked across the Kosciuszko Bridge with his household on Wednesday. The last time he keeps in mind walking throughout it remained in 1968, around the time the sidewalks on the old bridge were removed.

” The only thing that looks the very same is the cemetery,” Mr. Bulger stated, describing Calvary Cemetery in Queens.

Troy Stone, who had actually never ever walked over any of the city’s bridges until Wednesday’s preview, was struck by the view. “I’m taking it all in.”

But not every part of crossing the new bridge has actually been smooth cruising. There are no bicyclist lanes near the bridge on the Brooklyn side, according to Gerard A. Esposito, the district manager of Brooklyn Neighborhood Board 1.

” We’re worried about what occurs when you come off the bridge,” he said, standing near the bridge’s entryway in Greenpoint. “It’s a tough enough location without the new walk-cycle lane. If you’re brand-new to the area, you might not understand the danger.”

But cyclists talked to did not express those concerns.

” It’s remarkable,” said Andrew Williams, 50, of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, who cycled across the bridge for the very first time on Thursday morning. “I’m enjoying it.”

General, the new structure was greeted as a welcomed upgrade.

” The thing was breaking down. It appeared like it was going to fall any day,” said Henry Cordero, 50, of Glendale, Queens.

Angelo Papajorgji, 39, a specialist from Queens, stated he liked the new bridge for its swooping, trendy splendour and its splendid setting. It is likewise sparkling tidy, a big contrast, he stated, from the old, boxy bridge with its pocked concrete and rusting iron. He stated he also would not miss his tires rumbling over pits, removed asphalt and metal roadway plates.

” You’re not expected to feel the traffic,” he stated. “It’s a stunning bridge.”

For decades, lorries on the old Kosciuszko Bridge squeezed onto one period of six narrow lanes that might feel like a car park sometimes. The technique ramps were high.

The new bridge is 35 feet lower than the original. The shorter slope allows big lorries to preserve a constant speed, minimizing congestion. In revealing the opening of the 2nd period of the bridge on Wednesday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo stated the new bridge would minimize traffic by 65 percent

On Thursday, Mr. Cordero drove across the brand-new Kosciuszko period while listening to motorists complain on the radio that traffic on the bridge still did not move quickly enough. “Everybody’s grumbling about, ‘I thought there was going to be less traffic,'” Mr. Cordero said. “You’re in New York City City. There’s going to be traffic, child!”


Credit Gabby Jones for The New York City Times

Gregory Lewis, 70, a retired specialist who resides in Brooklyn, stated the important things that made him happiest as he strolled the bridge on Wednesday was hearing people say “Kosciuszko” correctly.

” People can pronounce. Traffic can improve,” he stated. “Individuals discover. Progress.”

Rebecca Liebson contributed reporting.

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Climate Activist Greta Thunberg, 16, Gets Here in New York After Sailing Throughout the Atlantic

Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg gotten here in New york city City on Wednesday after sailing throughout the Atlantic Ocean to call attention to the need for fast action to conserve the world.

Thunberg, a 16- year-old from Sweden, embarked in the racing sailboat Malizia II from Plymouth in the United Kingdom two weeks earlier on the trip to the U.S. to attend the United Nations Environment Action Top, which is set up to take place in September at the U.N.’s head office in New york city.

After disembarking from the vessel at a Manhattan marina, Thunberg was greeted by a crowd of advocates, consisting of a group of fellow high school students bring homemade signs. The trainees broke into chants as the sailboat slowly pulled into the marina in Lower Manhattan, including “Sea levels are rising therefore are we!” and “There is no World B!”

US-ENVIRONMENT-SWEDEN-CLIMATE-THUNBERG Swedish environment activist Greta Thunberg, 16, arrives in the US after a 15- day journey crossing the Atlantic in the Malizia II, a zero-carbon luxury yacht, on Aug. 28, 2019 in New York City. JOHANNES EISELE– AFP/Getty Images

Thunberg appeared a little tired from her journey, but spoke forcefully about environment change. While she does not expect everyone to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a boat like she did, she stated that she thinks it’s time for people to come together to combat environment modification.


Urban Farmers Organising Crates Of Fruits And Vegetables On Truck

” The environment and environmental crisis is a global crisis and the biggest crisis humanity has actually ever dealt with,” she said quickly after she stepped on coast. “And if we don’t manage to collaborate and to comply … then we will fail.”

Thunberg stated that while she’s wanting to get the word out about climate modification, someone isn’t the primary focus of her message—- President Donald Trump.

” My message for him is simply listen to the science, and he undoubtedly doesn’t do that. As I always state to this question, if nobody has been able to convince him about the environment crisis, the seriousness, why should I have the ability to do that?” Thunberg said.

Thunberg launched her project for action on environment modification simply last August, when she sat outside of the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm holding an indication engraved with the expression, “Skolstrejk för Klimatet” (School Strike for Environment). In the year because, she assisted to arrange a March 15 strike thought to have actually been signed up with by 1.6 million people in 133 nations; met world leaders, consisting of Pope Francis; and was nominated for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.

Thunberg has actually accentuated the greenhouse gas emissions triggered by air travel. In Sweden, she is credited for the spread of “flygskam”—- flight embarassment—- which reports say might have motivated some Swedes to avoid taking a trip by plane.

Greta Thunberg in New York People welcome environment activist Greta Thunberg to New York as she gets here in the US after a 15- day journey crossing the Atlantic in the Malizia II, a zero-carbon luxury yacht, on Aug. 28,2019 KENA BETANCUR– AFP/Getty Images

The Malizia II is a 60- foot vessel is designed to be emission-free, and is geared up with photovoltaic panels, hydro-generators and an onboard laboratory for determining CO2 levels and other information about the surface of the ocean.

The teen set sail two weeks ago with a little group, including her father, Svante Thunberg, and co-skippers Pierre Casiraghi—- grand son of Rainier III, Prince of Monaco and Grace Kelly—- and professional sailor Boris Herrmann, who has circumnavigated the world 3 times and made “numerous” journeys throughout the Atlantic, according to Herrmann’s website

As the vessel was created for racing, it was developed for speed—- but not comfort. Herrmann’s site acknowledges that the boat does not have lots of amenities, consisting of cooking centers, a toilet and a shower, although “comfy bed mattress” were added for Thunberg’s trip.

Several young individuals stated that they had actually first discovered Thunberg from YouTube, however had actually been inspired to act due to the fact that they’ve learned how environment change is impacting individuals worldwide.

Olivia Wohlgemuth, a 16- year-old trainee at LaGuardia High School, informs TIME that while she’s worried about the future, protesting to raise awareness gives her hope.

” I always feel so hopeful at protests. Climate change can be so bleak and action can be an antidote to that,” Wohlgemuth said.

Greta Thunberg in New York The Malizia II, a zero-carbon private yacht, with Swedish environment activist Greta Thunberg, 16, arrives in the United States after a 15- day journey crossing the Atlantic in on Aug. 28, 2019 in New York City. JOHANNES EISELE– AFP/Getty Images

Several teenagers, consisting of 15- year-old Dwight School student Alessandro Dal Bon, said that Thunberg had actually been the inspiration for them to get involved with climate advocacy.

” She’s not afraid of anybody. She’s not scared of the political leaders, she’s not scared of the business people. She simply wishes to get her message out there. And she wants to do anything for that. She’s prepared to cross the Atlantic Ocean for 15 days on a little boat to do that. That simply reveals you how determined she is,” Dal Bon states.

Thunberg thanked the sailboat’s group and stated that the journey had actually been “remarkably great,” keeping in mind that she hadn’t gotten seasick. She said that she would miss out on feeling “detached” from the world throughout the journey.

” To just sit, actually sit for hours, and simply gaze at the ocean refraining from doing anything. That was excellent. And I’m going to miss out on that a lot,” Thunberg said. “And of course, to be in this wilderness, the ocean, and to see the beauty of it. “

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Susan Collins ‘Sad’ That Assistance For Brett Kavanaugh Has Cost Her Votes

Sen. Susan Collins(R-Maine) refused to budge on her controversial assistance for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh‘s verification last year, and now the repercussions of that decision may be coming home to roost.

In an interview with Politico released Monday, the senator noted that her choice to guarantee Kavanaugh after Christine Blasey Ford accused him of sexually attacking her when they were in high school will undoubtedly affect her reelection bid, however Collins suggested that her choice was justified.

” Have I lost some votes since of my choice to support Justice Kavanaugh? Yes, I have. And I’m sad about that due to the fact that I discussed in terrific depth my decision-making,” she stated before including that there is still “a gratitude in Maine for someone who takes a look at the realities of a problem, votes with integrity and independence.”

Collins, called a moderate, was once untouchable in Maine politics, conveniently winning the 2014 election with simply over 68%of the vote

However as 2020 looms, it is significantly clear that it will not be smooth sailing for Collins this time. Recently, The Cook Political Report changed its Senate election forecast for the state from “lean Republican” to “gamble,” showing there’s lessened confidence in Collins’ possible to win.

On the other hand, her opposition, Democratic state Home Speaker Sara Gideon, who got in the race in June, has actually tried to utilize a few of Collins’ choices, such as her endorsement of Kavanaugh, to depict her as a partisan figure.

” At one point, maybe she was various than a few of the other folks in Washington, however she does not appear that method any longer,” Gideon stated in her campaign announcement video, including that her “vote to put Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court may be settling for her, but it’s put females’s control over their own health care decisions in severe jeopardy.”

Collins raised $1.8 million in the last quarter of 2018 following Kavanaugh’s verification, however just $19,000 of it came from Maine residents. On the other hand, Kavanaugh fans contributed $32,000 to Collins, according to an evaluation from liber very PAC American Bridge 21 st Century.


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Greta Thunberg unfazed by rainy seas

Greta Thunberg aboard the Malizia II on August 24, 2019.
Greta Thunberg aboard the Malizia II on August 24,2019

Image: Boris Herrmann Racing twitter screenshot

By Mark Kaufman

On day 12, the waves picked up.

Environment activist Greta Thunberg’s wind-powered journey across the Atlantic Ocean struck an especially stormy stretch on Sunday. Thunberg and her cruising team, en path to a U.N. Climate Action Top(and Mashable’s Social Good Top) in New York City, struck rough seas some 300 miles from Canada’s Nova Scotia. She kept in mind this in a brief Twitter video update, quickly after a wave crashed over the boat.

” It’s extremely rough with extremely high waves,” Thunberg stated.

Amid a long seafaring journey surrounded by limitless waters and the development of a hurricane in the north Atlantic, Thunberg and her group have consistently reported undaunted spirits.

” So far they’re really enjoying the trip,” Axel Hackbarth, an onshore member of the Boris Herrmann Racing team who is supporting the mission, told Mashable on Wednesday.

When Hurricane Chantal developed and began charging eastward across the North Atlantic on Wednesday– though not presenting an immediate danger to their boat the Malizia II– the team expressed little issue. Rather, they exploited and rode the resulting winds.

” It’s working to our advantage,” explained Hackbarth.

Hackbarth estimates that Thunberg and company will arrive in New york city City between Aug. 27 and 29, depending on wind conditions. As of Sunday, the Malizia II bumped along at speeds between 23 and 28 miles per hour (20 to 25 knots).

Thunberg has actually picked a rough, adventurous trip to New York City to prevent contributing unneeded carbon dioxide emissions into Earth’s atmosphere. It’s an unmistakable declaration made by a now prominent environment activist.

Airplanes have an outsized function in releasing carbon, as airliners contribute over 2 percent of overall worldwide carbon emissions– more than most countries in the world. ” Somebody flying from London to New york city and back creates approximately the same level of emissions as the average individual in the EU does by heating their home for an entire year,” the European Commission notes

Earth’s co2 levels– the world’s most important greenhouse gas– are skyrocketing. The heat-trapping greenhouse gas is now at its greatest climatic levels in a minimum of800,000 years, though most likely countless years

But that’s not all. The current climatic CO2 increase is now occurring at rates that are extraordinary in both the historic and geologic record

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Three French kids die after wave strikes boat in Channel

French SNSM rescuers, file pic, June 2019 Image copyright

Image caption

Rescuers got the victims to shore however the children were unconscious and died (file picture).

3 young French children drowned off the Normandy coast when a household’s motorboat was struck by a substantial wave and capsized in windy conditions.

Three grownups on board survived Monday’s drama, 800 m (0.5 miles) off the Agon-Coutainville beach south of Cherbourg.

Rescuers were quickly on the scene, however the boat’s stern was under water, including the cabin where the kids were caught.

The sisters aged 13 and 9, and kid aged 7, could not be restored.

The mom of the two women, spoken with by the daily Ouest-France, stated “all of it took place so rapidly we had no time even to cry out”.

They had been returning to shore, she said, when she saw water in the boat. “I called for aid, but then a big wave tipped us over,” she added.

‘ No time at all to go out’

The adults were outside the cabin, and the mom stated the children might not swim however had life coats on.

” They had no time to go out,” she described. The women’ dad “attempted to smash the cabin window, with his arm, his legs, then the boat’s anchor”.

French media report that rescuers on the Passous beach were notified by someone who had actually identified the boat in difficulty.

A sailing school boat rushed to the scene, along with a helicopter and two sea rescue groups.

The head of the local SNSM sea rescue system, Pascal Dutot, stated “it was no time to head out, the sea was too choppy, it was too windy for a boat of simply 5.50 metres [18ft]”.

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You can track Greta Thunberg’s journeys as she cruises across the high seas

Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg takes off from Plymouth, Britain  on August 14, 2019.
Teenage environment activist Greta Thunberg removes from Plymouth, Britain on August 14,2019

Image: ANDY RAIN/ EPA-EFE/ Shutterstock.

By Mark Kaufman

Greta Thunberg is bound for the high seas.

On August 14 the teenage environment activist set sail from Britain to New York City aboard the Malizia II, a technologically-advanced racing sailboat that creates electricity utilizing photovoltaic panels and undersea turbines. Next month, Thunberg will speak at the U.N. Climate Action Top(and Mashable’s Social Good Top), before cruising on to a essential U.N. environment conference in Chile.

You can track her development throughout the Atlantic Ocean on the ship’s website here(there might be a load time).

” The science is clear,” Thunberg stated in a declaration after announcing the seafaring journey. “We should begin flexing the [carbon] emissions curve steeply downwards no behind 2020, if we still are to have a possibility of staying below a 1.5 [Celsius] degrees of international temperature rise.”

The sailboat's location on August 14, 2019.

The sailboat’s area on August 14, 2019.

To avoid the worst effects of climate change, scientists internationally advise curbing Earth’s warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-Industrial Transformation temperatures; though with still-rising carbon emissions, this specific objective is now far out of reach, if not almost difficult to accomplish

Airplanes have an outsized function in emitting carbon, as airliners contribute over 2 percent of overall worldwide carbon emissions– more than a lot of nations in the world. ” Somebody flying from London to New york city and back produces roughly the very same level of emissions as the typical person in the EU does by heating their home for an entire year,” the European Commission notes

So Thunberg, who has taken a year off of school to promote for environment action, is totally preventing flight.

Earth’s climatic co2 emissions are now skyrocketing CO2 levels haven’t been this high in at least800,000 years— though most likely countless years What’s more, carbon levels are now increasing at rates that are unprecedented in both the geologic and historical record

Skyrocketing CO2 emissions.

Skyrocketing CO2 emissions.

Image: scripps Organization of Oceanography

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International shipping industry under the microscope as whale death toll grows

HALIFAX — The shipping industry is under increased scrutiny after two cargo ships were fined for sailing too fast through the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where the rising death toll among endangered North Atlantic right whales has been partly blamed on collisions with vessels.

There have been eight deaths reported since early June, and examinations of five of the carcasses showed three of them had injuries consistent with ship strikes — a leading cause of death for these rare mammals.

“While the shipping industry has been overwhelmingly compliant in respecting these (speed limits), there are still some exceptions, and Transport Canada is examining all reported cases of non-compliance,” the department said in a statement Friday.

Sonia Simard, a spokeswoman for the Shipping Federation of Canada, stressed the industry’s level of compliance has been impressive, given the number of vessels that move through the gulf.

“It is our understanding that the compliance rate is over 98 per cent for 2019 and was equally high in 2018,” Simard, the federation’s director of legislative and environmental affairs, said in an email.

Of the more than 2,200 large vessels that transited the gulf’s shipping corridors between April 28 and July 25, the Canadian Coast Guard found 227 vessels had exceeded the reduced 10-knot speed limit — but after investigation three quarters of these cases were closed without fines.

Simard said many of the vessels flagged by an automated tracking system had exceeded the limit by only 0.5 knots or less.

However, another 48 cases are under review.

“We know how important it is,” Simard said in an interview. “We are dedicated to the best management measures.”

Chad Allen, the federation’s director of marine operations, said it’s important to understand how difficult it is for the crews of large ships to spot whales.

Typically, larger commercial vessels have an officer of the watch and a lookout posted on the bridge. Though they usually enjoy a commanding view of the seas, it can be easy to miss right whales when they break the surface.

“The right whale doesn’t present a big profile,” he said. “It doesn’t have a big dorsal fin.”

As well, when the whales surface to breath, the spray from their blowholes is often indistinguishable from breaking waves when the winds exceed 15 kilometres an hour — a common occurrence on the gulf.

“As the wind picks up, when they do spray, that spray gets dissipated very quickly,” said Allen.

The federation represents 70 shipping businesses in Canada, which include ship owners, operators and marine agents.

Boris Worm, a biology professor and well-known whale expert at Dalhousie University in Halifax, said marine mammal experts are aware of the challenges faced by the shipping industry.

“Even in good conditions, when it’s easier to see the whales, it’s hard to judge which way the whale is moving,” he said. “It becomes hard to guess which way to turn.”

David Browne, director of conservation with the Canadian Wildlife Federation, said it may be time to start talking about moving the shipping lanes in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

“It’s a massive undertaking,” he said. “You have to convince all of the countries of the world.”

That’s exactly what happened in late 2002, when the International Maritime Organization approved Ottawa’s plan to shift routes in the Bay of Fundy to reduce collisions with right whales. The altered lanes force ships to divert several kilometres around zones where right whales are known to gather.

“Unfortunately, the whales also moved and mostly left the Bay of Fundy and started moving into the gulf,” Browne said.

On Friday, Transport Canada said it had issued $7,800 speeding fines to two cargo vessels: the Americaborg, a Dutch container ship, and the Atlantic Spirit, a bulk carrier registered in Hong Kong.

A third vessel, cited for a $6,000 fine on July 18, was the Big Eagle, a 52-metre luxury yacht. And a fourth vessel — the bulk carrier Milos Warrior — was “sanctioned” on May 30 for an alleged infraction on Nov. 3.

Allen said even if a whale is spotted before a collision, avoiding the slow-moving animals can be tough.

“A ship is similar to a car on ice — once you start the turn, it may not take immediately,” he said.

Worm said other whales, including fin and blue whales, are fast enough to avoid most ships — but right whales are bulky and slow, which is why whalers decided long ago they were the “right” whales to kill.

And even though they have good long-range hearing, the excessive engine noise in shipping lanes can leave them confused.

“Imagine yourself standing on a highway with your eyes closed and you’re trying to cross the highway — you’ll get more nervous as you hear more noise,” Worm said. “This is the situation the whales face.”

Though commercial vessels are typically equipped with radar for navigation, that technology is designed to detect metal objects with sharp angles, not the rounded, blubbery bodies of right whales.

Sonar uses underwater sound waves instead of radio waves to detect objects, but there are concerns this technology could have an impact on the whales’ communication and navigation.

“It’s not just an issue of cost,” said Simard. “It’s a mix of research and development … in the context of the biology of the whales.”

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Hate Those Floating Digital Billboards? New York Just Banned Them

New York|Hate Those Floating Digital Billboards? New York Just Banned Them

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation to outlaw the ads that “blight our shores.” But you may not have seen the last of them.


CreditCreditGary Hershorn/Getty Images

Jesse McKinley

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Depending on your point of view, they are either miracles of modern marketing or a heinous eyesore on the city’s waterways.

Either way, the digital billboards that had been plowing the East and Hudson Rivers over the last several months may soon be a thing of the past, as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation on Monday to ban them.

“These floating billboards are a nuisance that blight our shores and distract from the great natural beauty of our waterways,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement. “This action will help make our waters more enjoyable and safer for everyone.”

The governor’s action on the bill, which will be effective immediately, comes after months of complaints and legal action over the billboards, which first appeared last year and irritated the sensibilities of some New Yorkers.

But even as the governor and state lawmakers claimed victory, the company responsible for the billboards, Ballyhoo Media, remained defiant, saying it would continue operating in some form. They questioned the stringency of the ban, which prohibits any vessel with a digital billboard from “operating, anchoring or mooring in the navigable waters of the state” if they have “flashing, intermittent or moving lights.”

That definition, they argue, allows enough wiggle room to permit them to continue to float some of the advertisements, which have touted everything from Heineken to the latest Grinch movie.

Adam Shapiro, the company’s chief executive, said on Monday he was disappointed by the governor’s decision but remained “undeterred.”

“Our legal team believes these changes to the navigation law do not prohibit us from operating,” he said in a statement. “Instead they offer clarity on what we can and cannot display with our platform. As such, Ballyhoo intends to continue providing an innovative platform that encourages creativity, collaboration, and community.”

Earlier this year, New York City filed a lawsuit against Ballyhoo trying to stop the Florida-based company, arguing that the billboards were a public nuisance and safety hazard, and seeking to prevent the company from sailing the electronic billboard barges in its waters.

The city subsequently received a preliminary injunction preventing the barges from coming within 1,500 feet of the city’s shore or within view of any “arterial highway” like the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive or the West Side Highway. Settlement talks in that case are continuing.

The billboards have also been the subject of legal action in Florida, where they bob in the offshore waters of the Atlantic within view of Miami beachgoers. The Ballyhoo barges feature a 60-foot-long and 20-foot-high LED screen, visible from several thousand feet away.

In New York, the company had accused the city and state legislators of overreach, casting its fight as a First Amendment issue. (Shortly after the city filed suit in March, the company floated a billboard with this message: “Freedom is the foundation of our country.”)

The bill, which passed the Legislature in June, does allow localities to opt in if they want their residents or visitors to be pitched while staring at the sea or river way. But such an outcome seemed unlikely for opponents of the billboards, who likened the blinking barges to dangerous distraction for drivers and an ugly intrusion into the natural world.

“I believe that our riverfront is one of the last sanctuaries for New Yorkers, and should be treated as such,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman, the Manhattan Democrat who sponsored the bill in Albany’s upper chamber. “We don’t need Times Square floating past us as we relax or play or take walks.”

Jesse McKinley is The Times’s Albany bureau chief. He was previously the San Francisco bureau chief, and a theater columnist and Broadway reporter for the Culture Desk. @jessemckinley

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LightSail 2 Opens Its Sails in an Early Test of Tech That May Make Interstellar Travel Possible

A photo released today showing the recently unfurled solar sails.

A photo released today showing the recently unfurled solar sails.
Image: Planetary Society

A tiny spacecraft in Earth orbit has successfully deployed its solar sails. Called LightSail 2, the craft will now use the power of the Sun to lift its orbital height even further, in what’s considered an important test of this promising means of propulsion.

LightSail 2 is a crowdfunded project run by the Planetary Society, a nonprofit space organization. The goal of this proof-of-concept mission is to test the viability of using solar sailing as a means of propelling CubeSats and other objects in space. Eventually, a massively scaled-up version of this technology could take us to the outer realms of the Solar System—and even through interstellar space—at relativistic speeds.

Artist’s conception of LightSail 2.

Artist’s conception of LightSail 2.
Image: Planetary Society

In 2015, the Planetary Society conducted a preliminary test with LightSail 1, but the version currently in space will attempt to use its solar sails to raise its orbit by a measurable amount.

On Tuesday, July 23, around four weeks after it was delivered to Earth orbit by a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, LightSail 2 passed its first critical test: the deployment of its solar sails. The Cubesat itself is about the size of a toaster, but with its four triangular, razor-thin sails unfurled, the structure measures 32 square meters (340 square feet) in size.

The Planetary Society confirmed the successful deployment on its website, saying all of its “major systems are reporting nominally.” Mission controllers for the project are monitoring the spacecraft from their facility in San Luis Obispo, California.

At 2:00pm Pacific time on July 23, LightSail 2 had entered into solar sailing mode. Its momentum wheel, which works to orient the spacecraft’s position, was operating as expected, while “attitude control system data showed the solar sail was angled to within 30 degrees of its expected orientation—a promising early sign the spacecraft is tracking the Sun properly,” noted the Planetary Society.

The first images of the unfurled sail, taken by the spacecraft itself, were released earlier today in a Planetary Society tweet.

Mission controllers are still evaluating the integrity of the deployment, including a review of the spacecraft’s telemetry data. Assuming everything’s okay, LightSail 2 will start to raise its orbit by harnessing the power of the Sun.

Here’s how it works, according to the Planetary Society:

Light is made of packets of energy called photons. While photons have no mass, they have momentum. Solar sails capture this momentum with sheets of large, reflective material such as Mylar. As photons bounce off the sail, most of their momentum is transferred, pushing the sail forward.

The resulting acceleration is small, but continuous. Unlike chemical rockets that provide short bursts of thrust, solar sails thrust continuously and can reach higher speeds over time. Sunlight is free and unlimited, whereas rocket propellant must be carried into orbit and be stored onboard a spacecraft. Solar sailing is considered one possible means of interstellar space travel.

The Planetary Society is hoping to see LightSail 2 raise its orbit by a measurable amount, which shouldn’t be a problem. The spacecraft is expected to move at a rate of several hundred meters per day. The craft is currently 720 kilometers (450 miles) above the surface of Earth.

In addition to moving small satellites in orbit, large solar sails could conceivably be used to propel heavier spacecraft through the Solar System.

The Breakthrough Starshot project, for example, is envisioning a laser-powered solar sail that could be used for interstellar journeys. Incredibly, these light-propelled “nanocrafts” could travel at speeds approaching 20 percent the speed of light. At that rate, such a craft could reach our nearest stellar neighbor, Alpha Centauri, in just 20 years.

Artist’s conception of IKAROS.

Artist’s conception of IKAROS.
Image: JAXA

The Planetary Society is not the first group to experiment with solar sail technology. In 2010, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) successfully tested IKAROS, a 196-square-meter (2,110-square-foot) solar sail. Unlike LightSail 2, however, IKAROS is an interplanetary traveler, currently making its way through the inner Solar System.

Looking ahead, JAXA is planning to send a 2,500-square-meter (26,900 square foot) solar sail to Jupiter’s orbit, where it will study the gas giant’s Trojan asteroids, and then return to Earth. This project is scheduled for launch in the early 2020s.

The era of the solar sail, it would appear, is upon us.

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