BAY RIDGE — Santa came to Bay Ridge on Thursday, Dec. 5, for the annual tree lighting at the Shore Road Park gazebo. There were music, carolers, hot chocolate and cookies to help brighten the spirits of all those attending the event.
State Sen. Andrew Gounardes and City Councilmember Justin Brannan teamed up with NIA Community Services for the Christmas tree lighting that brought out well over 100 revelers braving the cold air to be part of the treasured neighborhood event.
Mary Anne Cino, CEO of the NIA, welcomed guests. “The NIA is so pleased to be doing this community event this year in partnership with both our Sen. Andrew Gounardes and our Councilmember Justin Brannan,” said Cino. “We are happy to be bringing out the community together and it’s just a joy to be here and see all of you.”
Gounardes got the crowd in the mood by asking if everyone was ready to celebrate Christmas. “I’m so glad we’re able to carry on this great neighborhood tradition of lighting the Christmas tree here on Shore Road,” said Gounardes.
He also thanked the NIA and the Columbia Society of the Sanitation Department for donating the books Santa Claus was giving to the children.
“This is how we celebrate community, this is how we celebrate the holidays and this is what it’s all about,” said Gounardes. “It’s bringing the Christmas spirit, bringing the holiday cheer and bringing the joy of neighbors being neighborly to one another into our community.
“We did it tonight by lighting the tree, but we shouldn’t need an occasion to do it. Let’s do it every day,” he urged.
Brannan took the mic and joked that because of the cold, “We’ve cut down the program and it’s only seven hours now to light the tree. We shortened it up. We were originally going to do an eight-hour program,” he said to laughter from the crowd.
Brannan thanked the Guild for Exceptional Children, whose chorus was on hand to entertain attendees. “The Guild has been part of this tradition for as long as I’ve been coming to this tree lighting, long before I was an elected official,” explained Brannan.
“It’s traditions like this that remind us just how special our community is and that we really are a small town in a big city,” said Brannan. “It’s traditions like this that don’t happen everywhere else where you can stick a Christmas tree in the middle of a neighborhood, light it up, and just have a great time with your family and friends. That’s what this season is all about,” he added.
Guild for Exceptional Children Executive Director and CEO Joe Riley thanked Gounardes and Brannan for their continued support of his organization. “They truly have been great friends to us and one of the reasons the music program is what it is today,” said Riley. “We are very happy to be part of this celebration and part of the Bay Ridge community since 1958.”
Also attending the ceremony were Assemblymember Mathylde Frontus, NIA Founder and President Mike Bove, 68th Precinct Commanding Officer Capt. Robert Conwell and Brooklyn Cyclones mascot Sandy the Seagull.
Following the lighting, carolers joined students from Xaverian and members of the Guild to sing a number of Christmas carols, concluding with a heartfelt rendition of the seasonal standard “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”