Dyker residents, officials react to designated parking for ‘Lights’ tour buses

Some Dyker Heights residents are up in arms over no parking signs posted in the neighborhood now that another season of its famous holiday light displays is underway.

“We’re not a bunch of Grinches. We love the lights,” lifelong Dyker Heights resident Joseph Cantalupo told this paper in response to bright pink signs labeled “No Parking” and “Tour Buses Only” that have been plastered along 86th Street from 10th through to 14th Avenue, along the park side, “but no one here was notified of the parking changes before they started, and it’s frustrating.”

From 3 p.m. to midnight, now through January 3, sections of the thoroughfare are officially roped off for tour buses coming to and from the storied “Dyker Lights,” an attraction that has begun to garner attention well beyond the tri-state area.

According to Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann, this is not the first year these parking regulations have been put in place.

“The No Parking area for tour buses was implemented last year following pedestrian and traffic safety concerns raised by Dyker Heights residents about local traffic congestion caused by a sharp increase in charter bus tourism to view holiday light displays,” she explained.

Those issues, she said, included buses unable to navigate turns onto local streets safely, an inability for homeowners to exit driveways, traffic gridlock at intersections, and emergency vehicles being unable to traverse local streets and avenues safely, among others.

“In response, Community Board 10 [and the] Dyker Heights Civic Association collaboratively met with the 68th Precinct and representatives from local elected officials’ offices to mitigate the safety concerns,” Beckmann said. “Encouraging tour buses to park along 86th Street on the park side for a limited time was successful and recommended to continue this year. The bus area encourages tourists to walk to see the Dyker Heights light displays along neighboring blocks and strives to encourage a safe vehicular and pedestrian traffic flow.”

Dyker Heights Civic Association President Fran Vella-Marrone agreed, citing safety reasons as the designation’s catalyst.

“We have to face the fact that this event gets bigger and better every year, and, legally, we can’t stop these buses from coming. They have every right to,” she said, recalling times in the past when fire trucks and ambulances had trouble making their way through Dyker Heights due to the traffic. “We wanted to continue what we started last year, because it worked.”

Still, residents like Cantalupo say, some sort of notice would have been nice.

“[The city] didn’t even ask our permission. They just came, put signs up, and towed away cars,” he said. “Some folks end up parking blocks and blocks away from their homes.”

“Is this serious?” another resident chimed in on Facebook. “This is a huge injustice to working people who live on these stretch[es] of blocks . . . What are we supposed to do on the holidays with family coming, tell [people] they have to park 10 blocks away?”

“We don’t mind having the police in here directing traffic, but why not let the buses use the parking lot at the Dyker Beach Golf Course?” added Cantalupo. “Then we’d get some of our parking back.”

“These tour bus companies are making money,” agreed another. “They could easily rent out that lot, or any other one at that.”

Still, Vella-Marrone said, “It wasn’t done to harm anybody, or give anybody any special treatment. This was done for the safety and the well-being of the community.”

In a joint statement, Vella-Marrone and Beckmann stood with State Senator Marty Golden, Assemblymembers Peter Abbate and Pamela Harris and Councilmember Vincent Gentile in supporting the regulations, as well as commending the 68th Precinct for their “hard work and efforts to make viewing the Dyker Heights light display a safe and enjoyable experience for all.”

“Last year, the 68th Precinct worked with local tour bus companies and encouraged them to park along four blocks of 86th Street limited to the park side,” the statement reads. “This was successful and we recommended that it be encouraged again this year.”

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