New bill would ban vendors from Dyker Heights Christmas lights display
The extravagant Dyker Heights Christmas lights display is expected to draw more than 150,000 visitors this year — but the tourists won’t be tossing as much litter on the sidewalks as they have in the past if a local lawmaker gets his way.
Councilmember Justin Brannan, a Democrat who represents Dyker Heights, Bay Ridge and parts of Bensonhurst, introduced a bill at a council meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 14, to ban vendors from a section of Dyker Heights during the weeks the Christmas lights show takes place.
The idea behind the legislation is to cut down on the amount of litter and trash that accumulates on local streets and sidewalks during the monthlong holiday lights display, Brannan said.
The local pol was prompted to take action after hearing complaints from year-round residents about their trashy troubles.
“The world-renowned Dyker Heights lights have become the nightmare before Christmas for many residents because of these vendors so this bill was really driven by resident feedback. Most forget this unique tradition exists in an entirely residential area. While homeowners are happy to welcome legions of tourists to the neighborhood once a year, they are not interested in overflowing garbage cans, litter all over the street and exhaust fumes from an ice cream truck idling outside their house for 12 hours a day, every day for a month,” Brannan stated.
The tourists who descend on the neighborhood every December to look at the elaborate Christmas decorations often buy hot chocolate, ice cream, candy and hot dogs from sidewalk vendors and then throw the cups, wrappers and napkins on the ground, Brannan and local officials said.
“We hope this bill will put an end to that and return a little bit of sanity to the residents who live here for the other 11 months a year,” Brannan stated.
Specifically, Brannan’s bill would prohibit vendors from setting up shop in the area of Dyker Heights that is the heart of the Christmas lights display — 10th Avenue to 13th Avenue, from 81st Street to 86th Street.
Fran Vella-Marrone, president of the Dyker Heights Civic Association, said passing the bill would make a big difference.
“In my view, vendors are 90 percent of the problem. If you get rid of the vendors, you’ll get rid of a big part of the problem,” Vella-Marrone said.
The vendors cause litter and tie up traffic on the neighborhood street, she added.
The Dyker Heights Christmas lights display is an production put on by dozens 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.
It has taken place each year for the past 25 years but has grown in size and scope in recent years.
Tourists from all over the country board buses to take the trek to Brooklyn to enjoy the show.
In recent years, some longtime residents have complained to elected officials, Community Board 10 and the Dyker Heights Civic Association that the event has gotten out of control with hordes of visitors clogging their sidewalks and treating the neighborhood like an amusement park.
The problem got so bad in 2018 that Fight Back Bay Ridge, a local activist group, decided to organize teams of volunteers who spent two weekends picking up the trash.
Josephine Beckmann, district manager of CB10, endorsed the legislation.
“I think it’s a great bill. The residents are living with vendors in trucks running their engines 12 hours a day. The bill will really address quality-of-life issues around the Christmas lights display,” Beckmann said.
Beckmann and Vella-Marrone have appealed to city officials to do a better job of overseeing the event.