Over-the-top NYC Christmas displays draw bah-humbugs
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 all-out 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. 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.”