Lighting the future — Looking ahead to Christmas 2020 in Dyker

Dyker Heights — It went better than expected but not as well as it could have.

That was the assessment local officials and community leaders offered on the nationally famous Dyker Lights, the holiday happening featuring dozens of extravagantly decorated homes with thousands of twinkling lights that draws hundreds of thousands of people who jam the neighborhood’s residential streets each year.

The nighttime display, which began shortly after Thanksgiving, ended around New Year’s Day. But more than a month after the last lights went out, officials are still evaluating the fallout from the event.

Josephine Beckmann, district manager of Community Board 10, said she was pleased that the New York Police Department had dispatched additional personnel to the area for traffic enforcement.

A new law banning street vendors from the prime viewing area had mixed results, according to local residents, who said a small number of vendors sought to circumvent the law by hiring disabled military veterans to man their food trucks.

Under city law, disabled military veterans are exempt from certain street vending restrictions in order to give them an edge in the competitive licensing process.

“I am happy about the additional traffic resources and there is more work that needs to be done regarding vendor enforcement,” Beckmann told board members at a recent meeting.

Still, there were fewer vendors in Dyker Heights this year than in previous years, Beckmann told the Home Reporter.

The law, which was sponsored by Councilmember Justin Brannan, banned vendors from operating in the prime viewing area located between 10th and 13th avenues from 81st Street to 86th Street from Thanksgiving Day to New Year’s Day, the height of the viewing season.

As a result, there was less litter on the streets, less noise from truck engines, less congestion and less air pollution due to less in the way of truck fumes.

“You had less litter and less congestion. People tended to congregate around the food trucks,” Dyker Heights Civic Association President Fran Vella-Marrone told the Home Reporter.

Vella-Marrone, Beckmann and Brannan have all called on the NYPD to enforce the vendor ban fully.

Brannan said he was generally pleased with how Dyker Lights went in 2019, but added that he is eager to make improvements for the sake of local residents who have to live with the ramifications.

“I think this year was better than years past — and we are moving in the right direction — but there is still a lot of room for improvement. This event is completely unique and each year, without fail, it gets bigger and more popular. So along with that comes a very unique set of challenges that I don’t think City Hall fully understands,” Brannan told the Home Reporter in an email.

“But, with Christmas 2020 just 10 short months away, we are already working to make sure next year is better than the last for the residents who live in Dyker all year round, not just the tourists,” Brannan added.

The Dyker Lights will be a topic of discussion at the next meeting of the Dyker Heights Civic Association as community leaders and residents begin to map out ways to make the 2020 iteration less stressful. The meeting will take place on Tuesday, March 10, at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church, 1072 80th St., at 8 p.m.

In another development, Beckmann said that while the NYPD did a good job with traffic control by flooding the neighborhood with auxiliary cops and traffic enforcement agents, “A lot of residents remain frustrated.”

The influx of tourists has an effect. “Residents can’t get out of their driveways with all the traffic coming down their streets,” she said.

“This year’s warmer December led to record-breaking crowds to view the magnificent light displays. There will be follow-up meetings to assess this past season’s agency response and future conversations with Dyker residents in the prime viewing area,” Beckmann said.

Dyker Heights’ Christmas lights have put the neighborhood on the map.

Dozens of homeowners decorate their front lawns and balconies with thousands of twinkling lights, giant Santas, dancing reindeer, enormous “Nutcracker Suite” figures, snowflakes and glowing angels. Many of the homeowners add to the festive mood by playing pre-recorded Christmas songs on sound systems.

During the Christmas season, hundreds of thousands of people visit the neighborhood each year, including tourists who arrive in Dyker Heights on tour buses.

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