Once again, Dyker Heights is wonderfully illuminated for the holidays. I was born and raised in Dyker Heights, served several years as president of the Dyker Heights Civic Association and still reside in the community. My whole life, Christmas time in Dyker Heights has been about the lights.
When I was a kid, the displays were not as extravagant, but they were all done personally by the homeowners. I very well remember my father stringing the big hot screw-in light bulbs around the shrubbery in front of our house on 80th Street as well as around the windows and doors. This was a big event in our house with my brother and me very excited as we “helped” my father who used a rickety ladder to accomplish his decorating task.
These big bulbs, which you still occasionally see, would get real hot and melt the snow or ice that would form. They also went out a lot and it was the duty of my brother and me to locate the dead bulbs and replace the ones we could reach.
Few homes, if any, had figurines displayed with maybe the exception of a manger scene. And of course, lighted, moving and singing scenes were for Disneyland, not homes on 11th Avenue.
Those in the know knew that Dyker was the place to go to see Christmas lighting. It was a place to take a stroll with your family all bundled up. It could get a bit busy, but never overcrowded, and it certainly was not a tourist destination.
Now it seems that the Dyker lights are known worldwide. Touring companies are filling buses with sightseers who make it a night. For many of the restaurants and some of the retail establishments, this is a good thing. For the residents, it is another matter altogether.
The professionally created and maintained displays are certainly there to be seen. For many of the homeowners, it is their way of honoring the season and celebrating the birth of Christ. They are happy to share and look forward to the children with their amazed looks and broad smiles, as well as the parents and others who come to take it all in.
And in a perfect world, this would all occur in an organized manner with only a manageable number of people walking the six or so block corridor where most of this happens in Dyker every night. Of course it does not.
Usually, every Friday and Saturday night from the first week of December through the Epiphany in early January, there are nearly impossibly large crowds from 7 to 10 p.m.
For starters, I would say if you live in Brooklyn and you wish to see the lights, you do not go on these nights during these hours. And there can also be large crowds on other nights as a result of the tourist buses which have been bringing large numbers of visitors for at least the past five years.
Recently, these buses have caused a controversy over reserved parking along the golf course side of 86th Street for several avenues, which the police — with the support of the community board, Dyker Heights Civic Association and many elected officials– designated for safety reasons.
A few years back, I was one of several community leaders who noted that the buses were creating a dangerous situation around the lights by dropping people off at the site and making wide turns at corners where children were crossing. It also added to an already impossible congestion situation.
The police and community leaders have worked out a good solution with the buses being restricted to drop-offs along a single block along the Dyker Golf Course side of 86th Street with the buses parking on the other side of the golf course where there is ample parking and much less traffic,
Some have said, why do they not simply park within the golf course parking lot. Although I do think that idea is worth considering, it should be noted that the company which leases the golf course cannot simply do that without a change in its agreement with the city.
And, not surprisingly, there is a major insurance issue which unaddressed would result in enormous liability for the golf course owners and bus companies. This can all be addressed, but it requires written changes that are negotiated and a willingness for the golf course and bus companies to address the liability issue.