Traffic, Trash, Noise among Biggest Complaints from Residents
The Dyker Heights Christmas Lights, a holiday season treat that draws tens of thousands of tourists to the community and causes headaches for homeowners who have to deal with traffic-clogged streets, piles of litter and ear-pounding versions of “Jingle Bell Rock” for weeks on end, will come under stricter supervision this year, a police official and community leaders promised local residents at a meeting Tuesday.
“We don’t want to be Scrooge or the Grinch, but we’re trying to get a delicate balance,” Deputy Police Chief Charles Scholl of Patrol Borough Brooklyn South told residents at a meeting of the Dyker Heights Civic Association.
Scholl said the Police Department is “formulating a plan” that will be “aggressive in nature” to ensure that traffic moves along so that public safety can be maintained.
Josephine Beckmann, district manager of Community Board 10, said the board has already met with representatives of several city agencies to urge officials to develop a comprehensive plan to deal with the expected increase in traffic, crack down on unlicensed vendors selling food to visitors, and work to ensure that the music and the noise are kept to acceptable levels.
“We will be pushing forward,” Beckmann said at the Tuesday, Nov. 13 meeting, which took place at Saint Philip’s Episcopal Church Hall,1072 80th St.
A spot-inspection of the area last year was revealing, according to Beckmann, who said six out of seven food vendors were found to be unlicensed. Some vendors brazenly sought to rent space in homeowners’ driveways, a clear violation of city rules, she said. “You cannot sell food to the public from private property,” she said.
The vendors are a major problem, said Dyker Heights Civic Association President Fran Vella-Marrone, because the trash from ice cream cones and cups of hot chocolate they sell wind up being tossed on the sidewalk by tourists after they’re done eating and drinking.
In addition, the vendors hog precious parking spaces and sometimes park on sidewalks, she said. “To me, the vendors are the most egregious,” she said.
Beckmann said the community board and the civic association are organizing an educational outreach effort to inform homeowners and vendors of the rules.
The community board and civic association will also issue requests to homeowners to turn off the lighted holiday displays at midnight and avoid playing loud, piped-in music.
Requests will be made to the Police Department for additional traffic enforcement personnel and to the Department of Sanitation for additional litter baskets, Beckmann said.
“We need order and structure for this event,” Beckmann added.
The Dyker Heights Christmas Lights display is an extravaganza that usually starts right after Thanksgiving and lasts until shortly after the New Year, and features scores of homeowners who erect two-story-tall Santas, dancing reindeer, giant “Nutcracker Suite” figures, illuminated snowflakes and other over-the-top decorations on their front lawns.
The holiday decorations are concentrated in an area bounded by 10th and 13th avenues, between 82nd and 86th streets.
Tourists from as far away as Boston board buses to take the trek to Dyker Heights to enjoy the show, according to local officials. Hotels in midtown Manhattan advertise the Christmas lights display to their guests, a sure sign that the Brooklyn event has hit the big time.
But the holiday merriment comes at a high cost, according to Beckmann and Vella-Marrone.
Local residents often can’t get their cars out of their driveways because of the near-constant flow of vehicular traffic on side streets, Beckmann and Vella-Marrone lamented. “It really has become a hardship for residents,” Beckmann said.
“When something gets out of hand, you have to put it back,” Vella-Marrone told her members.
In recent years, the city has set aside an area on 86th Street near 11th Avenue for tour buses to drop off and then pick up passengers, a plan that lessened the traffic somewhat on residential streets, Beckmann said.
Still, the large volume of traffic, coupled with food vendor trucks, leads to a highly-charged atmosphere that increases the possibility of danger, Vella-Marrone said. Kids often run across the street in the middle of the block, she said. “People don’t realize this is not a closed amusement park,” she said.
Last year, the community board requested that the city’s Street Activity Permit Office (SAPO) declare the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights display a street activity, a move that would have ensured that it came under stricter supervision.
The request was denied, leaving local officials scrambling to work with agencies to address the quality of life and public safety issues.