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Dyker debacle: Locals demand visitors to annual ‘Lights’ display behave

City Council passed a law banning vendors from operating near a notoriously crowded Christmas lights display in Dyker Heights.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

The mood around the bright holiday display is a bit darker this season.

The city needs to do more to manage crowds at the annual Dyker Lights tradition, demanded locals who complained that rowdy visitors cause mayhem and disrespect residents’ property at an Oct. 30 meeting hosted by Community Board 10.

“We can’t get out of our houses, the horns are constantly blowing, people are throwing garbage all around, they ring your doorbells if they want to use your bathroom,” said Nancy D’Amico, who lives on 84th Street and 12th Avenue. “I mean, it just got out of control.”

Since the 1980s, Dyker residents have decorated their homes and front yards with resplendent Christmas lights from just after Thanksgiving through early January, attracting visitors from all over the borough, the city, and even beyond.

But complaints about quality-of-life issues from the residents in the Dyker Lights area — from 10th to 13th Avenues between Bay Ridge Parkway and 86th Street — have spiked within the past two years, according to Community Board 10’s district manager.

She said the increase was due to more tour busses descending on the nabe with droves of tourists from all over who block residents’ driveways and parking spots, throw garbage on the sidewalks, and dance in the streets to loud music at all hours of the night.

Last year’s gripes led CB10 to coordinate a series of meetings with residents, the 68th Precinct, the Dyker Heights Civic Association, and the mayor’s Street Activity Permit Office — which issues approved permits — that started as soon as the lights came down in January with the hope of mitigating problems this year. Possible solutions included applying for a Street Activity Permit with the police department, which approves or rejects permit applications, because board members said it would help regulate the event by putting restrictions on vendors and requiring a beefed-up police presence.

But in early October, the police department told CB10 that it rejected the permit for this year’s festivities, citing that the application “did not meet the criteria for which a street activity permit is issued,” according to department reps.

The rejection landed the board and the frustrated residents back at square one, according to the district manager.

“We were very surprised that the permit was disapproved,” said Josephine Beckmann. “This is why we had the meeting with residents in early January, and then we met with the Street Activities Permit Office to say, ‘We need help. Can you help us kind of create some guidelines to address the quality-of-life issues and make this a better, safer event.’ ”

This was the first year CB10 applied for a Street Activity Permit for the event, Beckmann said, because they had previously tried to solve the problems locally, calling on the 68th Precinct to add more officers to the event.

But that approach didn’t work, Beckmann said, because there were only six police officers and one Sergeant at last year’s festival when the problems came to a head. And since this year’s rejection from the police department was verbal rather than written, the board couldn’t even appeal it on a technicality.

The police department did not respond to repeated requests for comment about why it specifically rejected the permit application or why it did not issue the rejection to the mayor’s office or community board in writing, instead directing all questions to the mayor’s Street Activity Permit Office, which did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Locals at the Oct. 30 meeting said that, regardless of the permit rejection, they need the city to do more to control the crowds and traffic.

“They need to stop the vendors, they need to stop the excess activity and keep moving traffic,” said April Scanio, who lives on 83rd Street between 10th and 11th avenues. “Years ago, it was really very enjoyable.”

Beckmann said the board is again calling on the 68th Precinct to allocate more officers to help manage the event and direct traffic, but added that residents will also have to do their part if they want to see a difference.

“We are now going to be asking residents to voluntarily do some of the items we had wanted to see in the permit — like voluntarily creating a time limit on lights,” she said.

But one 85th Street resident said she just wished that the Christmas visitors would modify their behavior so that she didn’t have to change hers.

“It would just be nice if people would go back to the days of old-fashioned respect and consideration — for people, their property, their holidays, and their traditions,” said Sueann DiPrima.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.

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