Under the shadow of the Verrazano Bridge, a small community of Brooklynites put on a Christmas spectacular each December that rivals even that of Rockefeller Center. The residents of the Dyker Heights homes stretching from 11th to 13th avenues and 83rd to 86th streets, decorate with bright lights, life-size nutcrackers and teddy bears, animatronic toys, nativity scenes, flashing LED light snowflakes, and any other flashy decoration imaginable.
Thirty-one years ago, however, when Lucy Spata first moved to the neighborhood, she found herself the only resident fully embracing the holiday spirit.
Some neighbors disapproved of her Christmas enthusiasm and took steps to put an end to her abundant decor. One resident even phoned the police. But ever the New Yorker, Spata took the jab as a challenge to further her holiday cheer. So, she hired a marching band. The more her neighbors complained, the more Spata added. In the years since the initial resistance, most naysayers have left the neighborhood and eager Christmas enthusiasts took their place.
Now, these few blocks in Brooklyn have become a tourist destination—an estimated 100,000 tourists per year—for those wanting to find the spirit of Christmas in New York City, but away from the popular destinations. There are even organized tours that bus in onlookers from Manhattan. While it may be far from the only community that leans in to the holiday spirit, a single Dyker Heights home could easily decorate a full block of houses in any other neighborhood. This comes at a cost, however, with some families shelling out over $10,000 on decorations over the years. Plus, there’s always the added cost of the electric bill.
Many have started to take advantage of the wildly admired spectacle: some households placing charity donation boxes outside their homes, an ice cream truck selling frozen treats (despite the freezing temperatures) parked on a corner, and one family operating their own hot chocolate stand. Cops block off streets some of the streets so onlookers can gaze in safety.
What once started as typical festive decor fueled in part by spite, has now turned into the pride of this South Brooklyn neighborhood.
Here, some of the best Dyker Heights has to offer: