Christmas displays put Dyker Heights on tourist map
Scissura Takes Chamber Members on a Tour
The Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce has been helping businesses in Brooklyn since 1918, but when current president Carlo Scissura took over the group a year and a half ago, he thought it needed a kickstart. One simple thing he did was to change the way the Chamber runs its meetings.
“We used to have these wonderful, but boring mixers,” Scissura said. “So we decided that we were going to change it up a little bit and not just having a boring mixer in the same place every time.
With that in mind, the Brooklyn Chamber, along with the 13th Avenue Merchants Association, visited Dyker Heights, where they held a networking program at Boulevard Books before embarking on a walking tour of the neighborhood’s glorious Christmas lights display.
“The lights of Dyker Heights are the reason why people from across New York City, and the world, come to southern Brooklyn every December,” Scissura said. “Nothing typifies Brooklyn’s holiday season more than the decorated homes of Dyker Heights.”
The entire neighborhood of Dyker Heights goes all out every Christmas, but Scissura knows that the best lights are on 83rd and 84th streets between 11th and 13th avenues. That’s where they found Lucy Spata, the “queen of Italian lights.”
Spata is the one who began the neighborhood sensation when she moved to Dyker Heights 30 years ago. She started in 1983 and said that at first the neighborhood didn’t embrace her. It wasn’t until a neighbor started matching her that the trend really caught on.
“When I first moved here, it looked like a funeral parlor during the winter,” Spata said. “I couldn’t stand it, I need disorganization. So I said, ‘I’m going to start decorating.’ I started doing it a little bit at a time and everybody complained, people didn’t like it, so the more they complained the more I added. Finally, they got tired and eventually they joined me.”
Every year Spata begins putting up the lights on Nov. 1 with the goal of lighting them on Thanksgiving night. When it’s done, her house is covered with over 20,000 lights that she keeps up until Jan. 7. She estimates that it costs $3,500 a month in electricity bills.
On weekends, Spata and her workers will occasionally dress up as well. “We have an Elmo, some elves, and every now and then I’ll dress up as Mrs. Claus,” she explained.
Spata is very passionate about the lights. She remembers that when new neighbors moved in next door, she immediately warned them that they not only couldn’t complain, but they have to decorate their house as well. She also joked that her will contains a clause that her children cannot inherit her house unless they agree to keep the tradition going every year.
“It’s a beautiful time of the year,” she said. “Why would you want to stay in the dark?”