funny red lights at intersections in new york city

I want to know what the funny red/orange lights are for at a lot of intersections in new york city. In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ll try to describe them. They’re on switched on continuously as far as I can tell. They’re all the same shade of red/orange (slightly more orange than “don’t walk” lights) and all the same design. There’s at most one of them at an intersection usually on a pole at one corner of the intersection, eg the pole that the traffic lights are attached to. They’re mounted on a bracket that comes out horizontally from the pole for about a foot and then turns vertical for about 2 feet - the light is in a coloured dome at the top of this. Maybe my attempt at ascii art below makes sense:

  ||  n light
  ||  |
  ||  bracket

They’re mounted at roughly the same height as the street name signs, so you have to look upwards to see them. They seem to be present at maybe a third of all major intersections in the parts of the city I’ve been to, but I can’t for the life of me work out what the pattern is for which intersections get them and which don’t, and which corner of the intersection gets one. Something to do with marking boundaries? Something to help helicopter pilots navigate?


Maybe it’s to alert drivers to possible oncoming emergency vehicles? :confused:

Those lights mean it’s ok to change lanes without signaling; to make a left turn from the right lane even if it means cutting off three lines of traffic; and to honk your horn at someone in front of you the instant the light turns green.

Just a guess, based on experience :wink:

I have a hard time visulizing it - what intersections are they at

They indicate the location of Fire Call Boxes

Only picture I could find on short notice

Use your browser’s find button, search for the phrase “To make room for the fire alarm light” and scroll up a bit to the picture above this text.