Christmas lights to adorn Dyker, Bensonhurst biz areas

December 4, 2019 Paula Katinas
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Brannan works with FIAO to brighten shopping strips

SOUTH BROOKLYN — “Where there’s light, there’s life,” said Jack Spatola, president of the Federation of Italian-American Organizations of Brooklyn, as he made the announcement that two Southwest Brooklyn shopping strips will have Christmas lights this season after many years of darkness.

The FIAO joined forces with Councilmember Justin Brannan to ensure that 13th Avenue and 18th Avenue will be adorned with Christmas lights to entice shoppers and make the holiday season brighter for the Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst communities.

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Brannan and Spatola made the announcement at the FIAO’s Il Centro community center at 8711 18th Ave. on Dec. 4.

The Christmas lights are expected to be turned on over the Dec. 7-8 weekend, according to Brannan, a Democrat representing Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and parts of Bensonhurst.

ebrooklyn media/Photos by Paula Katinas
Councilmember Justin Brannan said he and the FIAO have been working since the summer to find a way to bring Christmas lights back to 13th and 18th avenues.

The lights, which will cost approximately $20,000, will be placed along 13th Avenue from 63rd Street to 83rd Street and along 18th Avenue from 63rd Street to Benson Avenue.

Brannan secured additional funding from the city budget for the FIAO, which will use some of that money for the holiday lights. In addition, Investors Bank has stepped in with a donation to help pay for the lights.

Both 13th and 18th avenues have gone without Christmas lighting for many years due partly to the escalating costs of renting and putting up the lights, local officials said.

The two shopping thoroughfares are lined with small, mom-and-pop stores and do not have active merchant associations.

“We were working to make sure there are lights. We remember the good old days,” Spatola said. “Lights are a symbol of life in this community.”

Brannan was enjoying dinner in an Italian restaurant when a constituent walked up to his table and asked whatever happened to the Christmas lights on 18th Avenue and why were they no longer being put up.

“I thought, ‘That’s a good question. Let me find out.’ And we got started,” he said, adding that he reached out to Spatola and Carlo Scissura, chairperson of the FIAO’s board of directors, and got the ball rolling.

“We made it happen,” Brannan said, adding that the project “is a way to give back to the community.”

Scissura said he is pleased Christmas lights will once again shine on 13th and 18th avenues. “This is a very important thing for the community,” he said.

The non-profit FIAO, established in 1975 to promote Italian culture, offers classes, social service referrals, programs for senior citizens and other programs. The FIAO’s crowning jewel, Il Centro, opened in 2018 and houses classrooms, meeting rooms, a gymnasium and a pool. 

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