Behind the twinkling lights, there is tension.
Longtime residents of Dyker Heights have expressed concern over the size and scope of the Dyker Heights Christmas lights display and are gingerly questioning whether the city can adequately handle the crush of tourists who descend on the residential neighborhood every December.
No one is trying to spoil the holiday merriment, but residents said they are also growing weary of what they called a proliferation of food vendors setting up shop on streets, on sidewalks and in some cases, in homeowners’ driveways.
Visitors purchase candy, ice cream and hot chocolate from vendors and then carelessly drop the wrappers and cups on the sidewalk, causing an increase in litter, according to residents.
“How come everyone was against the food trucks and now it seems they’re doing exactly the same thing they do every year? We were told the city was going to do something about it this year. But I still see them all over the place,” one woman told this newspaper.
The woman asked that her name not be published. “I don’t want my neighbors to think I don’t like the Christmas lights. I love them! I think they’re beautiful. I just think some of this other stuff has got to go. The whole thing has become excessive,” she said.
The Dyker Heights Christmas lights display is a community-wide event that has been going on for many years and features homes adorned with Santas, dancing reindeer, “Nutcracker Suite” figures, illuminated snowflakes, giant snow globes and other elaborate decorations on their lawns and front steps.
It has grown in popularity in recent years.
Tourists by the thousands board buses and come to Dyker Heights to enjoy the nighttime show.
In another sign that the event has hit the big time, hotels in midtown Manhattan advertise the Dyker Heights Christmas lights display to their out-of-town guests as something special to do in New York City during the holidays, like seeing the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree or looking at Macy’s windows.
But the success of the event has led to traffic jams on narrow side streets as well as an increase in noise and litter, according to Community Board 10 officials and leaders of the Dyker Heights Civic Association.
Josephine Beckmann, district manager of CB 10, admitted that the food vendors are a cause of great concern, largely because many of them do not have permits from the city.
Beckmann added that it’s a violation of city regulations for a homeowner to rent space in his or her driveway to a food vendor.
If residents spot something amiss, “they should immediately call 311 to report it,” Beckmann told newspaper.
The community board cannot send inspectors out, Beckmann said. “We’re not an investigative agency,” she said. The Department of Health is the agency that would issue fines to food vendors violating the law.
Meanwhile, another resident, who also asked remain anonymous, questioned the legitimacy of charity drives that take place alongside the holiday season extravaganza.
The woman pointed out that homeowners have approached tourists on the sidewalk, or have had helpers dressed as Santa’s elves approach them, and have asked the visitors to make donations to charities. “How do we know they are legitimate? Some of these charities, I’ve never heard of,” she told this newspaper.
And in cases where the donations are being sought for well-known charities, the woman questioned whether the donations are actually forwarded by the homeowners to the charities.
“I don’t mean everyone. I know that a lot of these homeowners have been doing this for years and that they’re legitimate. But not everyone is. We don’t know where the money is going,” she said.
A spokesperson for New York State Attorney Barbara Underwood emailed to this newspaper a list of tips on how to avoid being scammed when it comes to charitable giving.
The key is to be informed, according to the attorney general’s office.
Donors should consult the website www.charitiesny.com to make sure that a specific charitable organization is registered. Donors should also find out whether a charity has authorized a group or an individual to collect donations in its name.
Another tip: the attorney general’s office recommends that people avoid giving donations in cash.