Over-the-top Christ­mas dis­plays draw bah-humbugs

The Washington Times Daily - - AMERICAN SCENE - BY WIL­LIAM MATHIS

NEW YORK | It’s a neigh­bor­hood Christ­mas dis­play with New York City at­ti­tude: big, brash, loud and over-the-top.

Blaz­ing lights, gi­ant toy sol­diers, an­gels, snow­men, wise men, Santas and piped-in Si­na­tra car­ol­ing form an all­out bar­rage on the senses from nearly ev­ery house in the heart of Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights neigh­bor­hood, an an­nual ex­trav­a­ganza that draws thou­sands of tourists ev­ery evening by the car and bus­load.

But all of it has some res­i­dents just wish­ing for a si­lent night.

“As pretty as it can be, it’s dif­fi­cult,” says Linda Reb­mann, 72, who has lived in Dyker Heights all her life and has only an un­lit cran­berry wreath on her home. “It’s a lit­tle out of hand. It’s got­ten to be a bit much.”

No­body is talk­ing about pulling the plug on the dis­plays, which are still a source of neigh­bor­hood pride. But there has been ex­tra grum­bling this sea­son, es­pe­cially after some park­ing spots usu­ally used by res­i­dents were blocked off for rows of tour buses.

“This close to Christ­mas you can’t walk. It’s like Man­hat­tan,” says Joyce Ar­pino, 55, a res­i­dent for three decades. She says she stopped dec­o­rat­ing in­side her win­dows be­cause gawk­ers would peer in­side and rap the glass. Tourists used to park in front of her house or even in her drive­way un­til she set out some orange traf­fic cones.

“I don’t want to sound like a Scrooge,” she says, “but it’s hor­ri­ble.”

To that, res­i­dents like 30-year-old Vinny Priv­itelli re­spond: lighten up.

This year, he spent all of Novem­ber and thou­sands of dol­lars to in­stall strings of red and white lights on his roof and around ev­ery win­dow and adorn his lawn with rein­deer, a trio of danc­ing elves and a na­tiv­ity scene. Mr. Priv­itelli ad­mits part of the fun is try­ing to outdo his neigh­bors, some of whom hire pro­fes­sion­als to do their dis­plays. And he has no prob­lem with the throngs of vis­i­tors who come to check it out.

“It’s nice to see them en­joy­ing it, that’s what we get out of it,” he says. “Ev­ery­thing in the news is neg­a­tive, so at least we get one pos­i­tive thing.”

Around the cor­ner, a crowd of 35 peo­ple stopped at an­other house, where ev­ery inch of the stoop and pa­tio was packed with glow­ing nutcrack­ers, snow­men, rein­deer and plas­tic an­gels.

On an­other lawn, a 13-foot-tall, an­i­ma­tronic Santa Claus sat be­tween a pair of gi­ant toy sol­diers and two carousels ablaze with lights. It was all so bright that the selfie-snap­ping crowds didn’t need to use a flash.

“Let’s go folks. You can’t hold up traf­fic,” an of­fi­cer in­side a po­lice van shouted at driv­ers stopped in the street.

“I like it when they take pic­tures,” says An­gela Per­alta, whose dis­play in­cludes a candy cane arch over the drive­way, a “Merry Christ­mas” ban­ner and a wav­ing, in­flat­able snow­man. “Peo­ple are very re­spect­ful. They say it’s beau­ti­ful.”

By most ac­counts, the light dis­plays be­came a neigh­bor­hood ac­tiv­ity in the 1980s, and buses be­gan bring­ing in tourists from Man­hat­tan about a decade ago. Some bus tours play up the area’s Ital­ian-Amer­i­can her­itage, in­clud­ing stops at a nearby bak­ery for can­no­lis and hot choco­late.

Among the bus vis­i­tors this year was Jeanne An­drews, 66, who trav­eled from Vin­cennes, In­di­ana, to ex­pe­ri­ence Christ­mas in the Big Ap­ple. She went to see the tree in Rock­e­feller Cen­ter and the win­dows at Macy’s, but this was dif­fer­ent.

“I like this be­cause it’s so per­sonal. Ev­ery fam­ily has some­thing dif­fer­ent,” she says. “I love it. I just think it’s spec­tac­u­lar.”


Tanya, Adri­ana and Va­syl Pal­in­chak take a selfie in front of an elab­o­rately-dec­o­rated home in the Dyker Heights neigh­bor­hood of the Brooklyn bor­ough of New York.

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