Bay Ridge’s Fifth Avenue is aglow in lights to celebrate Ramadan for the first time, which the display’s organizers hope will honor the large Muslim population in the diverse southern Brooklyn nabe.
“We have the largest Arabic-speaking population in New York City,” said Amanda Zenteno, executive director of the Bay Ridge Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District, who coordinated the Ramadan lighting. “It’s a huge part of who we are here on Fifth Avenue.”
Ramadan began earlier this week, and the extravagant light display will light the 20-block span from 65th street to 85th street through the holy month.
Lights have become a staple of the neighborhood, and glow in the area each December — including when locals fundraised to continue the tradition as the pandemic threatened to turn the lights out.
Now, the lights make their return during warmer months to honor Brooklyn’s significant Muslim population.
“You see a lot of holiday lights across New York City for Christmas,” Zenteno said. “Making sure our community was represented And feeling like they can celebrate together, to me it was an absolute necessity.”
A cadre of elected officials and organizations — including City Councilmember Justin Brannan, Borough President Eric Adams, Investors Bank, Balady Market, and the Bay Ridge Fifth Avenue BID — banded together to mark the holiday and make the light show possible.
“I am thankful to celebrate the Holy Month of Ramadan representing one of the largest and longest-standing Muslim communities in the United States right here in Brooklyn! Our neighborhood is all about traditions new and old and I was lucky to be a part of making this one a reality,” said Brannan, who represents Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst. “This year, I join with all Muslim Americans across our city to focus on reflection, forgiveness, patience, compassion for those less fortunate, and resilience during these challenging times.”
The Bay Ridge Fifth Avenue BID organized the effort to put up Ramadan lights throughout the month last year, but the effort was halted when shutdowns due to the pandemic forbid most out-of-home activity — including hanging lights for Ramadan.
“We had tried last year to do it, and because it happened right in the middle of the pandemic closure,” Zenteno said, “we had everything ready to go for the lighting setup but they weren’t able to come out because they weren’t essential services.”
Zenteno hopes the Ramadan lights will also lead into the celebration of a variety of holidays on the avenue to represent the diversity of their neighborhood.
“We really want to continue this pattern of celebrating more culturally significant events in our community,” said Zenteno, “and this is where we had to start, it had to be Ramadan.”
Residents and patrons also commemorated the holiday by shopping at a range of Fifth Avenue businesses owned by Islamic Brooklynites — such as Urban Modesty, Yemeni Cafe, Belady Supermarket, Le’Jemalik Salon and Boutique, and many more.
“I really encourage people to come out and be part of our community,” Zenteno said. “People who want to support the community, Fifth Avenue is a great place to come do it. There is a huge variety of food and retail and things, and it really would make you feel like you are a part of it all.”