Nothing unites the small and quiet neighborhood of Dyker Heights more than the iridescent display of Christmas lights and decorations that can be seen in many corners of the community, with many displays concentrated in the area from 81st to 84th Streets between 11th and 13th Avenues.
Although the tradition is not historically marked by a watershed moment, local residents attribute the origin of the neighborhood’s ambitious Christmas lights to Angelo and Lucy Spata, who adorned their house with a grandiose display of lights over 25 years ago. Now, over 30,000 lights veil the Spata home, located at 1152 84th Street, illuminating 15-feet tall nutcrackers that line the lawn, motorized dolls, little villages and more.
Another well-known house is the home of Florence Polizzotto, 1145 84th Street, whose lawn features 29-foot toy soldiers, a 25-foot Santa and 10-foot tall dancers.
The popularity of the two homes created a domino effect that inspired other homeowners in the six-block span to decorate their homes in a similar fashion. Visitors in 2012 can easily be mesmerized by over half a million lights that tower over them, and by the Christmas music, carolers, Santas, elves, and more – incorporating fantasies from Sesame Street to Disney as well as more traditional themes.
“People come from every neighborhood to see the lights,” affirmed proud 81st Street resident, participant and member of Community Board 10, Sandy Vallas. “It’s a wonderful thing. We enjoy decorating and people enjoy coming to see the lights.”
Indeed, the Dyker lights beguile visitors and tourists from around the world. “People are always stopping outside my house to take pictures. I even remember meeting someone from North Carolina,” Vallas recalled. Homeowners have stated that they have met visitors from Australia, Japan, Holland, England and Ireland, as well as various parts of the country.
Decorators, whose signs can be found on lawns around the neighborhood, are paid anywhere from $1,000 to $20,000 to adorn the houses. On top of that, some homeowners have paid anywhere between $5,000 and $10,000 in electric bills, according to Cannoli Tours tour guide Tony Muia, who leads viewers around the neighborhood each holiday season.
The large expense homeowners incur is no burden, however. “I don’t see it as an expense,” Vallas elaborated. “The holidays are good for us. I see it as enjoyment to see my house light up as it is.”
While the lights certainly reel in tourists from around the world, they also operate to bring the community together in revelry, friendship and the holiday spirit. This year, TV characters, such as Barney and Dora the Explorer will circulate the six blocks soliciting donations for the Make-A-Wish foundation. Some homes have donation boxes out front as well.
Other notable holiday houses include the home of the Rizzutos, 1062 84th Street, and the residence of the Lambrones, 8304 12th Avenue, both known for life-sized Christmas characters and animatrons. Do not miss out on an opportunity to see Dyker’s famous spectacle. The Dyker lights are on during evenings throughout December up until Christmas.
If you venture farther afield, there are glorious lights to be seen in other parts of southwest Brooklyn, as well. One block in Bensonhurst, for instance – 82nd Street between 18th and 19th Avenues – stands out for its trio of dramatically lit houses standing side by side.