Deck the Heights!
Ahead of the neighborhood’s storied holiday lights display, Dyker Heights residents are decking the halls – and battening the hatches — for another fun-and-stress-filled season of visitors. Starting Dec. 1, tour buses will bring loads of tourists to view the bold and dazzling lights displays, brought to life each year by dedicated residents of southern Brooklyn.
Thanksgiving typically serves as the Dyker Lights’ unofficial kick-off and, as expected, locals began setting out their human-sized nutcrackers and Santas last weekend, said Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann.
Dyker Heights prepares for thousands of holiday visitors
Since the event welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors each winter, Beckmann says city officials have to formulate plans to alleviate traffic and pedestrian buildup.
“It really is a happy and festive time,” she said. “Residents really do love the lights but it does also bring traffic congestion to the perimeter area for sure and we want to make sure that it’s safe both for pedestrians and visitors in the area.”
Over the course of the holiday season (in wake of the traffic congestion now synonymous with the annual event), the New York City Police Department dispatches additional traffic enforcement officers to help guide guests through the Lights. The bulk of the festive display spans the mid-80s between 11th and 13th avenues, but decorations are present through most of the nabe.
“There is a lot of city agency support to keep the area safe and try to maintain traffic flow and safe pedestrian travel,” Beckman told Brooklyn Paper. “The Police Department has really devised a good plan to help with traffic and pedestrian safety and directing the busses and other forms of larger bus transportation, commuter vans to drop off on 86th street and 12th Avenue and then they stay around the golf course to wait for pick up so that there’s not large busses traversing through the streets as pedestrians view the area.”
While most neighborhood residents embrace Dyker Lights each year, some have reservations regarding safety.
Mario Caggiano, a Dyker Heights native, appreciates that small businesses in the area get more visibility during the holiday season, but said the Lights often make life a little harder for those who live in the neighborhood year-round.
Dyker Lights brings festive fun – and safety concerns
“Dyker Lights comes with a lot of obstacles and bad points. The good part obviously is that the neighborhood gets showcased,” Caggiano told Brooklyn Paper. “From a resident’s perspective, it brings an extreme amount of traffic. The parking spots are all taken up and the streets are literally congested too. It’s very dangerous because if you ever have an emergency, you can’t get through the streets. As far as that perspective, I don’t look forward to it.”
Much like Beckmann, local representatives like Councilmember Justin Brannan pitch in to help mitigate concerns of traffic congestion, pollution and garbage pile-up. Brannan’s office begins inter-agency planning each summer.
“It’s no longer a secret that some 14 miles from midtown Manhattan there is a magical place in Dyker Heights that puts the tree at Rockefeller Center and the windows at Saks Fifth Avenue all to shame,” Brannan told Brooklyn Paper in a statement. “My only goal is to keep visitors safe and the streets clean for the residents who live here the other 11 months out of the year.”
In 2019, Brannan introduced a local law that banned vendors and food trucks that often created bottlenecking on the roads. However, some vendors found a loophole that allowed them to keep running. Some nearby restaurants also stay open late to offer travelers a dining alternative.
Dyker Heights saw a dip in Lights visitors during the pandemic with fewer families decorating their homes and more visitors choosing to self isolate. In 2021, Beckmann says numbers were back to pre-pandemic averages — and she expects even more this winter.
As does Dyker Heights Civic Association President Fran Vella-Marrone — a fan of the Lights but not of its less-than-merry attributes.
“We’re happy that Dyker Heights is known for its Christmas lights and that people come and enjoy them,” she said on behalf of the association. “Our concern is that the residents can also have a safe and comfortable Christmas season as well, and we want to make sure its safe not only for our residents but for the people coming to visit as well.”
Vella-Marrone expressed confidence in groups like Beckmann’s, and in the hard work of the local 68th Precinct, in keeping the Lights joyous for all.
“I know Community Board 10 and the 68th Precinct are putting together a plan for it to be safe for everyone,” she said. “We look forward to the Christmas season but we want to make sure that everyone enjoys it — residents and visitors alike.”
The age old tradition that’s been a Brooklyn staple since the 1980s kicks off this Thursday. It is free to view the lights however, tour bus companies offer transportation throughout the month at various costs.
With all hands on deck and all halls being decked, Dyker Lights is expected to have its usual turnout this year as more displays have already gone up, according to Beckman.