Ramadan began last week and for the first time in the history of New York City, Muslims got their own Ramdan lights in Bay Ridge.
The twenty blocks along 5th Ave from 65th Street and 85th Street are lit up every night with a crescent moon to celebrate Ramadan. Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic Calendar, in which Muslims around the globe fast the whole month from sunrise to sunset. Muslims believe the holy book Quran was revealed during the month of Ramadan to Prophet Mohammed (SAW).
Elected officials from Brookly and local businesses on Bay Ridge joined with Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District (BID) to help fund the lights.
“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!” Council Member Justin Brannan, who represents Bay Ridge, wrote in an email. “Our neighborhood is all about traditions new and old and I was lucky to be a part of making this one a reality!”
Brooklyn Borough President, Eric Adams, took to Facebook and said, “Check out the Ramadan lights on Fifth Avenue! I’m proud to partner with Councilman Justin Brannan, the Bay Ridge Fifth Avenue BID, Investors Bank, and Balardy[Balady] Supermarket on this new celebratory display.”
The Ramadan Lights idea started two years ago with just one sign that said ‘Happy Ramadan.’ Now 20 blocks are lit up in festive blue and white.
“I hope our Ramadan Lighting program inspires other neighborhoods. We have received a lot of interest in the program and questions from other locations curious to see if they would be able to do something similar in the future,” said Amanda Zenteno, Executive Director of 5th Avenue BID.
“I think it is very important to encourage folks to come out and support the community. We have an amazing assortment of Middle Eastern food and retail establishments. I encourage everyone to be part of the celebration,” Zenteno said.
The Muslim residents of Bay Ridge are also stoked about the Ramadan lights.
“I love the lights. I actually was noticing it with my brother the other day,” Salwa Mozzeb, 20, told Bklyner. Mozzeb said that she lived in Bay Ridge her whole life and said that she was not surprised to see the Ramadan lights because it is home to the largest Arabic-speaking population in New York City.
Mozzeb’s mom is from Syria and her dad is from Yemen but she was born and raised in Brooklyn. She said the lights are allowing her to be closer to her Arab heritage.
“I’m just happy that I live here and that I grew up here. It’s like in a way I’m lucky, than most Americans,” Mozzeb added.
Mohammed Widdi who also calls Bay Ridge his home said that he will not be able to live anywhere else besides New York City.
“I think it’s a great idea, because, truth be told, we always feel a closeness to the seasons like Christmas and what not because of the warmth and lights and the decorations,” said the 32-year-old who is also the coordinator of Muslim Giving Back a non-profit-organization whose goal is to feed the homeless.
“When I saw it[referring to the lights], it was very, very special, something very nice from whoever did it,” said Sherif Hafiz, 29, the owner of Santorini Restaurant and Cafe, which opened on 5th Avenue three years ago.
As the sun sets, one can hear Adhan (call for prayer) from the streets of Bay Ridge followed by the Imam leading the Maghrib prayer (prayer after sunset).