It’s the return of a beloved holiday tradition!
Convivial Coney Islanders gathered on Mermaid Avenue on Wednesday to flip the switch on thousands of holiday lights along a mile-long stretch of the corridor — the first time in more than two decades that such a display graced the neighborhood.
One local who brought his youngsters to the lighting said he was thrilled to finally see local leaders inject some holiday cheer into the neighborhood.
“I grew up here and I’ve never seen this lit up, so the fact that they’re doing it is monumental,” said Charlie Gil, who brought along his 2-year-old and baby sons, Angel and Ray.
Neighborhood do-good group the Alliance for Coney Island and the office of Councilman Mark Treyger (D-Coney Island) co-sponsored the event, and the organizers lit up the street at the stroke of 6 pm. The new decorations include a red-and-white “Welcome to Mermaid Avenue” banner at West 15th Street, and blue-and-white snowflake banners stretching across Mermaid Avenue intersections from West 16th to West 33rd streets.
Bigwigs at developer the Arker Companies — which in 2020 is slated to begin building a 153-unit below-market-rate housing project in the Coney Island, according to real-estate blog YIMBY — funded the event, according to information from the Alliance.
Locals snacked on cookies and gulped down hot chocolate — provided by the Alliance — to keep warm during the chilly night, and members of a local Girl Scouts troop handed out candy canes for an extra dose of holiday cheer.
And for a few precious minutes, the youngsters rushed out into the blocked-off street to stand beneath the new “Welcome to Mermaid Avenue” banner, where they — along with their parents and local pols and leaders — belted out a spirited rendition of “Jingle Bells” to celebrate the return of the lights.
The avenue, which is home to area businesses, residential communities, and schools, is a cornerstone of the community, according to Treyger, who said he hoped the new lights would help locals come together this holiday season.
“The Mermaid Avenue corridor is the lifeblood of our community, and for many years there were no holiday lights,” Treyger said. “It is my hope that [these lights] strengthen our bond and our unity in our neighborhood.”
Newly inducted Assemblywoman Mathylde Frontus (D-Coney Island) echoed Treyger’s remarks, adding that she hoped the decorations would inspire community members to take comfort in each other during the holidays.
“I hope this is something that can bring us together,” Frontus said.