Have The Dyker Heights Lights Become A Christmas Nightmare? – OPINION

Photo by Mary Bakija/Bklyner

By: City Councilman Justin Brannan and Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann

When most people talk about Christmas in New York City, they usually mention the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, the stunning holiday window displays at Saks Fifth Avenue or maybe the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. Meanwhile, some 14 miles from midtown Manhattan, there is magical place in Brooklyn that puts them all to shame.

For decades, homeowners in Dyker Heights have decked out their grand estates with spectacular Christmas light displays. In recent years, this uniquely local hometown tradition has gone from a small Christmastime stroll around the neighborhood to a world-renowned “must-see” destination attracting hundreds of thousands of tourists onto the narrow residential sidewalks of Dyker Heights for about 40 days starting in December.

Just as Santa Claus closes out the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to mark start of the Christmas season, starting the day after Thanksgiving, the Dyker Lights fanfare begins anew, being widely publicized on social media, radio and every morning TV show from here to Germany as “the thing you absolutely MUST check out this holiday season!”

Over the past few years, savvy charter tour bus companies and private commuter vans discovered a big money-making opportunity and flooded this otherwise quiet residential area with busloads of visitors from Long Island, New Jersey and overseas. Brooklyn was already a scorching hot tourist destination so the Dyker Lights sightseeing packages quickly exploded in popularity.

But local residents who for so many years have loved viewing the Christmas light displays, now feel completely overwhelmed by these tour buses that bring hundreds of thousands of tourists and a parade of ice cream trucks and street vendors that combine to cause a traffic congestion Christmas nightmare. This creates a month-long street festival-like atmosphere in this quaint residential neighborhood. Just imagine the joy of a 40-day “unofficial” street festival happening outside your door on a quiet tree-lined block or the noise and fumes from an idling ice cream truck for 10 hours a day – not exactly the Norman Rockwell Christmas of your dreams.

Over the last few years, Community Board 10 and the Dyker Heights Civic Association joined in an effort to get a handle on all of this. After dozens of public meetings and outreach to local residents, last year, Community Board 10 applied to City Hall for a street event permit, hoping to bring some order to the event while prohibiting the illegal vendors that overwhelm the neighborhood. But NYPD lawyers denied the application because, they argued, they could not issue a permit for an event that technically took place on private property.

They compared Dyker Lights to tourists visiting Times Square to see the big LED billboards. Naturally, the Community Board contended that Dyker Heights is not Times Square, and, as one of the safest police precincts in New York City, we simply do not have the resources afforded to the “Crossroads of the World” to safely handle the hundreds of thousands of tourists that come in charter buses, vans or cars for about seven weeks every December. NYPD maintained that charter buses are exempt from NYC DOT rules and therefore can traverse local residential streets with sugar plum impunity.

While the vast majority of residents and private homeowners still love the lights and cherish the tradition, it is the sheer volume of visitors that overwhelm their small residential neighborhood that exhausts them. Some say they feel like prisoners in their own homes and have to schedule their daily lives around the tour bus schedules and tourists who are not always mindful or respectful of private property and driveways. Others complain of being literally choked by ice cream trucks that idle for 10 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Something’s gotta give. We all love the lights but not the endless tour buses, the ice cream trucks and everything that comes along with them.

The 2018 Dyker Lights were bigger than ever. What did we learn? For one, we cannot have giant tour buses snarled in these residential areas creating insane gridlock and blocking any chance of an emergency vehicle getting through. We also cannot have ice cream trucks idling for 10 hours a day and illegal vendors turning Dyker Heights into Times Square.

Look, it’s fantastic that hundreds of thousands of tourists want to come see Dyker Heights but at what cost to the residents who live in this great, quiet, and tight-knit neighborhood 365 days a year? It is completely unfair to them. First and foremost, it is our jobs to care about the residents of Dyker Heights and keep them happy and safe. As your Councilman, and local Community Board District Manager, we will do everything in our power to make sure 2019 is different. You have our word.

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  1. I’ve always enjoyed the lights … Taking my Children every year … But what I saw this year was horrible the beauty and quiet of the season was totally gone.. It’s become a money maker for someone who doesn’t live here or love it as we did ……I left… The enjoyment of Christmas is gone so very sad…..

  2. Bay Ridge Along Narrows is gaining on Dyker. They should learn a lesson. Lots of tour buses stop there as well. Our family did not go to Dyker because of all the tourists this year. I feel bad for those blocks affected. It used to be fun to walk around the blocks.

  3. I can’t believe with everything going on in other neighborhoods this is considered a problem here.

  4. “You have our word”. I’ve lived in Dyker over 30 years. Gets worse each year. I direct this statement directly to City Councilman Justin Brannan and Community Board 10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann. Your not getting it done. Here’s an idea. What would happen if I had a medical emergency and I had to call an ambulance. Traffic is 45mins to get from one avenue to the next. The local stores I order take out from will not deliver. They refuse to deliver. Why? Traffic. I would go out and pick up my own take out but if I get back, food is cold and can’t find parking. Better yet, I have a driveway. I can’t park in it because someone is blocking it. Cops can’t help. “We can’t leave our post” is the response I get. Crowd control. You have a radio stupid, call some other cops. Cops block streets and the traffic gets pushed back to other blocks. Over the years I never toned back the lights on my house. What I do do is close my lights by 9PM. One more thing, trash. Christmas light viewing bring tourist that bring trash. I put my trash cans behind my house now. The dirty diapers and Chinese food container I find are too much to stomach. Stop writing articles about the problem and take some action.

  5. The traffic is ridiculous and always been but this bus tour they have set up on 86th st is beyond disrespectful

  6. Hey Joe Tammaro,

    Councilman Justin Brannon has only been in office for one year. He wants to help us. Give him a chance. You sound like a jerk.

  7. All this would piss me off!!!! I would not want all these strangers parading my neighborhood. Sorry but not sorry. The display of lights is for the neighbors not all over the world tourism

  8. The city obviously is ok with the tour buses. They designate parking spots for them! I doubt they do that free of charge. Its shameful and frustrating. The families that present the lights pay for all the electricity and decorations, and greedy strangers make a profit off of their generosity. Each year, my heart breaks more, as I see crowds of disrespectful tourists climb on people’s lawns and up the their displays for pictures. They block residential streets, leave trash behind, and have little consideration for the people who actually live there. I doubt it can go on like this much longer.

  9. I live in Dyker and I love it! I walked around a few times a week and I really didn’t see much of a problem, people just love to complain, how about you enjoy it for 4 weeks out of the year. All I hear about is the negatives I have seen mostly families with there kids and couples enjoying the lights and all the smiles and excitement on the kid’s faces !! Live life and enjoy it you only live once! lighten up, people! and yes I have to deal with the traffic and the parking to !! Better than living in a neighborhood where there are shootings rapes and muggings everyday!

  10. I agree with Jimmy, there are much bigger problems going on in our city and around the world to worry about too many visitors enjoying the holiday festivities. I live on 84th Street close to 12th Avenue and have to deal with all the visitors on foot and traffic congestion but it’s only for a short period out of time where people come to enjoy these beautiful decorations. I manage it with minimal adjustments to my life style, then life goes back to normal. I love the holiday festivities and wouldn’t change it for the world. The Police Department, Civic Association, Community Board 10 are doing as much they can with the resources dedicated to keeping us all safe and I think they are doing a great job out there every night. And more improvements will be made each year. I recall a few years back, I couldn’t even drive down my block and street vendors were all over the place creating a huge messes. I don’t believe this tradition is going away so I feel it’s better to embrace it and help the community make improvements.

  11. For all of you who say enjoy it…enjoy the strangers ringing doorbells asking to use the bathroom or people asking to charge their cell phones? Or perhaps we should enjoy the people who refuse to move their cars from private driveways? Or the visitors who scream and yell in front of the windows of children who have school in the morning? Or maybe we should enjoy all the coffee cups littered in front of our houses that we have to pick up in the morning. This is a travesty waiting to happen. If their is a medical emergency that person is doomed. Last year firefighters had to run with their equipment down the block because the traffic was snarled. So before you say oh just enjoy it provide me with some answers. I’m specifically curious on how I should handle someone who curses at a 70 year old woman when she wouldn’t let a complete stranger into her home to use the bathroom.

  12. Steven and jimmy please tell me how I should respond to the incessant requests of people asking me to use my bathroom, charge their phone and provide them with water? Should I let complete strangers into my home? Or why must I ask people to move their cars to access my own driveway and then be subjected to their rudeness. Please tell me why I should enjoy the endless piles of garbage, soiled diapers and the sight of people relieving themselves on my lawn. I think it’s absolutely insulting for you to ask your neighbors to tolerate this mess. There are a number of families with small kids unable to sleep because of the endless screaming, horn beeping and traffic outside their windows. Many folks who work evening shifts are unable to get down their own block. And how about when someone is need of an ambulance. Last year firemen had to run with their equipment down the street to answer a call. So when you say oh have some Christmas spirit I’m just not sure where you want me to look. Is it at the garbage strewn about? The unsafe number of pedestrians clogging the streets? Or the people that tell curse at you when you won’t let them use your bathroom.

  13. I grew up in Dyker Heights and its a shame to see what this holiday season has become. For us the most pressing problem is people parking in your driveway. You come home late at night and can’t even use your own property. And speaking of property, we are paying higher property taxes than the “wanna be hipsters and the hedge fund people who own brownstones in downtown Brooklyn. Can our elected officials do something about that??

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