In response to complaints from community leaders about a proliferation of unlicensed food vendors in Dyker Heights during the busy hours of the neighborhood’s famous Christmas lights spectacular, the commanding officer of the 68th Precinct said his officers and other city agencies have been cracking down on the sidewalk salespeople.
Speaking at a joint meeting of the Dyker Heights Civic Association and the 68th Precinct Community Council last week at Redeemer-St. John’s Lutheran Church in Dyker Heights, Capt. Robert Conwell said police are taking the complaints seriously.
“We’re really looking into vending, and have enforced what can be enforced,” he told residents at the meeting. “We issued a few summonses. If you see them now, they have found spots where they can be.”
Conwell also said he had his officers go out one night with representatives of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the NYPD’s Peddler Task Force and the NYPD’s Legal Bureau “to see if there was anything we missed.”
In a single night last week, DEP issued violations to an ice cream truck and a food truck, according to Conwell. In addition, the Peddler Task Force issued two violations to one truck owner and several other trucks were hit with summonses.
The Dyker Heights Christmas lights display is a dynamic, community-wide event that features scores of homeowners in an area stretching from 10th to 13th Avenue who erect larger-than-life holiday displays, including Santas, dancing reindeer, giant “Nutcracker Suite” figures, illuminated snowflakes, super-sized snow globes on their front lawns and house facades.
The Christmas lights extravaganza draws visitors from all over the world.
But the success of the event has spawned traffic jams and a sharp increase in litter on the streets, according to leaders of the Dyker Heights Civic Association and Community Board 10 officials.
The problem comes when visitors purchase candy, ice cream and hot chocolate from food vendors and then carelessly drop the wrappers and cups on the sidewalk, according to fed-up residents.
During the weekend of Dec. 15-16, members of the group Fight Back Bay Ridge came into Dyker Heights to pick up litter as a neighborly gesture.
Fran Vella-Marrone, president of the Dyker Heights Civic Association, said many of the vendors do not have the proper licenses from the city to sell food. “The vendors are a real problem,” she told this newspaper on Tuesday. “I appreciate the efforts made by the 68th Precinct. It has made a difference. But the problem still persists.”
The police presence has made a major difference in traffic control, according to Vella-Marrone, who said traffic has been moving more smoothly thanks to a large number of cops assigned to the neighborhood at night.
“That’s where I have seen the biggest difference from last year to this year,” she said.
Conwell confirmed at the meeting that traffic control was a top priority.
“We’re turning out the troops, and making sure the officers know what we want them to do, which is traffic control. We’re fighting the fight for you guys,” he told residents.
Councilmember Justin Brannan, a Democrat whose district includes Dyker Heights, said he will work with city officials so that the Christmas lights event could be better planned in 2019.
“We’re hoping next year City Hall will give us an official permit, so instead of having to beg, borrow and steal resources, we will have resources allocated,” he said.
The Christmas lights display is a wonder to behold, Brannan said. “It’s pretty cool to have people coming to Dyker Heights from Europe to check out the lights,” he said.
Additional reporting contributed by Helen Klein