New York Post


Homeless force end to Bx. tree lighting


City vagrants are real grinches — causing so much disruption in one Bronx community that residents had to cancel their tree-lighting ceremony in a park plagued by the pesky panhandler­s.

Vagrants are urinating in the street, hassling passersby for cash — and now they’ve ruined Christmas in The Bronx.

The annual outdoor Christmas tree lighting in the borough’s Little Italy section was canceled because the soaring panhandler population forced the event’s sponsors to spend so much on security that there was no cash left for the celebratio­n.

“It’s unfortunat­e,” Frank Franz, treasurer of the Belmont Business Improvemen­t District, told The Post. “It was a very expensive event, so we canceled it.”

The BID, he said, had to weigh the price of public safety against that of the holiday festivitie­s, which cost about $15,000.

“Every neighborho­od should be concerned about the safety and the quality of life of their neighborho­od. There’s always been homeless around, but now you’re seeing an increase all over the city,” he said about the sharp rise of aggressive panhandler­s.

One business owner, Rosa Paciullo, who for 20 years has owned Tino’s Delicatess­en with her husband, Giancarlo, said bums used the Vincent Ciccarone Playground where the lighting has been held as a public toilet.

“My daughter took her daughter to the [Ciccarone] park and a homeless guy peed in front of them. Some of them would come in and ask for money or food. It scared some of the customers away,” she added.

Franz said the BID had to hire added security over the summer to keep the area safe for shoppers and merchants.

The tree lighting had been celebrated in the playground on Arthur Avenue for at least four years and drew hundreds to the shops and restaurant­s in one of the borough’s main tourist attraction­s.

An indoor lighting is planned for Thursday at the Arthur Avenue Retail Market, featuring Bronxborn “Sopranos” star Dominic “Junior” Chianese sing ing and signing autographs.

But merchants said Friday that they were still disappoint­ed that the popular outdoor lighting won’t take place.

“I think it’s terrible,” said Michael Teitel, whose father owns Teitel Brothers specialty food importers, an Arthur Avenue institutio­n for a century.

“They started a tradition and they should keep it going. It’s heartbreak­ing for kids. I got kids. I’m still a kid,” he said.

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 ??  ?? HO HOBO HORRIBLE: Added security costs to address the homeless have caused Bronx’s Little Italy to cut its Christmas tree lighting.
HO HOBO HORRIBLE: Added security costs to address the homeless have caused Bronx’s Little Italy to cut its Christmas tree lighting.

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