Born and raised in Kentucky, Jon Morris couldn’t help but notice something as he moved to Los Angeles and then here to New York City: the disappearance of so many stars and constellations in big-city skies as a result of light pollution and other environmental problems. So he resolved to do something about it. He and his artists collective, the Windmill Factory (so named with more than a subtle nod to Don Quixote), which specializes in “manufacturing the sublime,” has installed “Reflecting the Stars” on the old pilings jutting out into the river from Pier 49 in Hudson River Park. Divers have attached radio-controlled, solar-powered LED lights encased in rusting steel pipe caps on more than two hundred of the wooden posts, and each evening, from sunset to midnight, blue and white lights go on and off in various patterns. In addition, visitors can push buttons on a board to see nine constellations that can are longer visible with the naked eye in the city sky, including Perseus, Hercules, Canis Major, Andromeda, Aquila, Boötes, Pegasus, the Little Dipper, and Draco. Engineered by Adam Berenzweig, designed by Rich Schwab, and manufactured by Andy Baker at Kontraptioneering, “Reflecting the Stars” is more than just a cool site — and one, by the way, that is that much cooler if you can gain access to one of the surrounding roof decks to look down on it. It also sends an important environmental message, a plea for people to take back nature and the skies from industrial pollution, particularly the lights left on all night in office buildings and the neon logos that blast across the city all night long. “It raises questions about the way we live,” Morris said at the project’s public unveiling on August 31. With a Buddhist’s calm, Morris stressed how people need to regain their “connection to the stars, to the moon, to the universe.”
“Reflecting the Stars,” which continues through October 25, is one of the highlights of Climate Week, as the Clean Revolution descends on New York September 19-26. Among the many lectures, panel discussions, installations, cocktail receptions, and other educational and informational gatherings are “The Lexicon of Sustainability Project,” “Innovations in Energy Efficiency Finance,” “Apartment Building Recycling Training,” “Plug-In Cities: What EV Means for the Future of Urban and Regional Transportation,” “Feeding Hope: Living Democracy with Vandana Shiva & Frances Moore Lappé,” “Dr. James Hansen: Climate Change or Just Mother Nature Acting Out,” and the grand finale, “Meditations on a Warming Planet: An Audience Participation Performance” on September 26 at 6:00 on the Sheep Meadow in Central Park.