It feels like Christmas just ended, but for elected officials and community leaders in Dyker Heights, it’s not too early to plan for the 2019 holiday season.
The Dyker Heights Christmas lights display was the main topic of a recent meeting organized by Councilmember Justin Brannan to review the city’s response to the 2018 event and come up with ways to make it better and safer this year.
Lawmakers and residents alike said they want to see the de Blasio administration do a better job of policing the month-long event next time around.
The Dyker Heights Christmas lights display is an extravaganza put on by scores of homeowners in the neighborhood who erect giant Santas, dancing reindeer, enormous “Nutcracker Suite” figures, illuminated snowflakes, moving angels and other elaborate decorations in front of their homes and play pre-recorded Christmas carols from sophisticated sound systems.
Thousands of people come to Dyker Heights each holiday season to see the lights. Tourists from all over the country board buses to take the trek to Brooklyn to enjoy the show.
But some longtime homeowners have complained in recent years that the event has gotten out of control with hordes of visitors clogging their sidewalks and treating Dyker Heights like it’s an amusement park.
Residents said they’re tired of putting up with litter-filled streets, ear-splitting noise, food vendors parking their trucks in local driveways and a constant flow of traffic that often prevents them from getting their cars out of their driveways.
The Feb. 7 meeting, which took place at the office of Community Board 10 on Fifth Avenue in Bay Ridge, was attended by Brannan, state Sen. Andrew Gounardes, Board 10 Chairperson Doris Cruz, Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann and representatives from the city’s Street Activity Permit Office, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Buildings and the New York Police Department.
Brannan, a Democrat who represents Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and parts of Bensonhurst, said his goal for holding the meeting was to get everyone on the same page.
“The 2018 Dyker Lights were bigger than ever. What did we learn? For one, we cannot have giant tour buses snarled in residential areas creating insane gridlock and blocking any chance of an emergency vehicle getting through. We also cannot have ice cream trucks idling for 10 hours a day and illegal vendors turning Dyker Heights into Times Square. I think it’s great that hundreds of thousands of tourists want to come see Dyker Heights at Christmastime but at what cost to the residents who call this great neighborhood home for the rest of the year? It has become completely unfair to them. I will do everything in my power to make sure 2019 is different,” Brannan told this newspaper via email in Feb. 11.
“There are roughly 10 months until the next holiday season begins. We need to make sure we don’t have a repeat of the traffic, sanitation and noise issues we had this year. Ultimately, our goal is for all those near and far to experience the Dyker Heights lights, but community and pedestrian safety is paramount,” said Gounardes, a Democrat whose Southwest Brooklyn district includes Dyker Heights.
The homeowners who erect the over-the-top Christmas Lights live in an area located between 10th and 13th avenues between 82nd and 86th streets. It’s taken place each year for the past 25 years but has grown in size and scope in recent years.
The problems appeared to escalate in 2018, according to Beckmann, who said streets were so tied up, fire trucks had difficulty getting through. In addition, food vendors are getting out of hand, she charged.
“Mobile truck vendors were operating outside people’s homes 10 hours a day. It’s just so loud!” she told this newspaper in a phone interview.
The litter piled up on sidewalks led Fight Back Bay Ridge, a local activist group, to organize teams of volunteers to spend two weekends picking up the discarded coffee cups and candy wrappers.
Everyone at the meeting brainstormed to come up with solutions, Beckmann said. “We’re trying to plan in advance for this year,” she added.
One idea that might be revived is to ask the city to designate the event as a street activity, a move that would bring in additional resources from the NYPD and other agencies for crowd control.
Board 10 and the Dyker Heights Civic Association issued a street activity request in 2018 but were turned down.