Greenpoint Strip Goes Without Holiday Decorations for First Time in Decades

By Meredith Hoffman on December 18, 2013 9:39am 

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 Manhattan Avenue is without holiday lights for the first time in decades, residents said.
Manhattan Avenue Without Christmas Lights
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GREENPOINT — Holiday lights that glimmered above Greenpoint's main shopping strip for decades were not hung this year due to a lack of funding — saddening locals who say the area feels less like a community without the cheery decorations.

Lit-up snowflakes and stars have been hoisted above Manhattan Avenue for about the past 40 years, but this year the thoroughfare remains dark after local officials were unable to raise the necessary money for the seasonal ornaments, residents and business leaders said.

"It just makes me more sad and depressed," said lifelong Greenpoint resident Ginger Finneran-Koenig, 59, who said the lights gave her a boost around the holidays.

Finneran-Koenig is one of dozens of residents who have complained online and to local officials that the loss of lighting has dampened their holiday spirit.

"I've had more people call to complain about the lights than people call about homeless people dying in the park," said Jeff Mann, head of the Greenpoint Chamber of Commerce, referencing an ongoing issue facing the community.

"It's absolutely embarrassing and shameful that Greenpoint doesn't have holiday lights."

Mann, who has previously helped fundraise for the street lights, explained that no group had raised adequate money this year for the expensive decorations.

Last year's set of eight large snowflakes, which stretched over a series of intersections on Manhattan Avenue, cost about $20,000, he said. While business improvement districts pay for most holiday lights in the city, Mann said, Manhattan Avenue does not have a BID.

"Raising the funds becomes a full-time job," he said, noting that the Greenpoint Business Alliance previously funded the project but has since shut down.

The Alliance had a three-year contract to pay for the decorations that was passed on to the nonprofit North Brooklyn Development Corporation when it folded, Mann explained. But that contract expired last year, leaving the lights in limbo, he said.

Representatives for North Brooklyn Development Corporation did not respond to requests for comment.

Some neighbors said they were surprised local businesses had not stepped up to fund the lighting. They said new businesses in particular should help pay for the lights, since the area has become increasingly popular and gentrified.

"It bothers me because it feels like things are changing, and not for the better," said local resident James Garcia, 26.

But Mann blamed the lack of decorations on the absence of an organized fundraising effort this year.

"We tried to do something through the Greenpoint Chamber of Commerce, but it was too late for us to raise the money this year," he said. "I hope we can in the future."

Locals explained that the holidays would just not be the same without the lights.

"We as a neighborhood have lost a bit of our character. The Christmas spirit has been unplugged from the neighborhood along with the lights," said a resident named Vlad, who declined to give his last name. 

"The Christmas lights on the avenue restore hope and help those who recently lost family members relive the good times and the good memories that the holiday season would generally bring."

State Assemblyman Joseph Lentol also has received a number of calls protesting the lack of lights, a spokesman said.

"There's something about having those lights up that makes you feel like you're part of a community," Mann said. "But without them, it almost feels like 'each man for himself.'"

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