Spectacular Christmas light displays go on in Brooklyn despite pandemic

The Polizzotto house featured a 15-foot Santa Claus for more than 30 years.
Reuters/Andrew Kelly

“Forty years I’ve been going that house,” said Lou Nasti, who made and installed the family’s gigantic Christmas statues every year. “It’s kind of funny that it’s gone.”

The house’s owner, Alfred Polizzotto, was one of the first Dyker Heights residents to partake in the holiday lights tradition, along with his neighbor, Lucy Spata. In 1988, while in remission from cancer treatment, Polizzotto commissioned the fantastic display, which became one of the neighborhood’s main attractions.

After Polizotto’s death in 2001, his wife, Florence, continued the tradition. In 2019, Florence passed away, and her children decided to erect the decorations for one more year in her and Alfred’s memory, Nasti said.

But now the younger generation has put the mansion up for sale, and has divided the decorations between their respective homes in New Jersey and Nassau County, Nasti said.

“[Dyker Lights] will never be what it was,” Nasti lamented. 

Several other homes across the southern Brooklyn neighborhood are still shining bright this year — including Lucy Spata’s house across the street from the Polizzottos. 

Spata put up her full display before Thanksgiving, and the blazing lights and statues continue to draw admirers despite the COVID-19 pandemic. 

One couple, who stood outside the Spata house on Dec. 17, said they travel from their home in Rockaway, Queens every year to see the lights. 

Lucy Spata has installed her famous holiday display at her 84th Street house.Photo by Dean Moses

“It’s a yearly tradition,” said Vlad Fedorie, who said there were fewer decorations this year. “It’s a little less.”

Another group agreed that there were fewer displays.

“Usually every house is decorated,” said Josh Bogatan, who speculated that residents wanted to reduce foot traffic amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “I guess people just don’t want people coming to their house.” 

Bogatan’s friend was still wowed by the decorations.

“I mean, this is still crazy though,” she said. 

Though fewer people were milling around the neighborhood than usual on the night of Dec. 17, one local leader said that attendance has been surprisingly high — particularly during the weekend of Dec. 12.

Many Dyker Heights houses are decorated for the holidays, though some homes have less outlandish displays than usual.Photo by Dean Moses

“The weather was nice. It was really crowded; we did get some complaints,” said Josephine Beckmann, the chair of Community Board 10. “People were concerned about social distancing.” 

Locals also complained about two vendors who’ve stationed their trucks in the neighborhood every weekend in defiance of a new law, Beckmann said.

Local Councilman Justin Brannan passed legislation last year banning food vendors from the neighborhood between Thanksgiving and the New Year after residents complained of excessive trash and noise. But some street merchants took advantage of a loophole in the new law by hiring disabled veterans, who can vend anywhere in the city with few exceptions according to an 1894 law. 

But despite the setbacks, Beckmann said the lights have been a success so far, and that locals have relished in the comfort of the annual tradition.

“People are really yearning for a place to go and feel festive,” she said.

Lucy Spata’s Dyker Lights display features dozens of Christmas statues and figurines.Photo by Dean Moses

This article first appeared on BrooklynPaper.com

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