BELMONT — The Arthur Avenue Christmas tree ceremony that was initially jeopardized by a aggressive panhandlers went forward Saturday, thanks to funding by a local politician.
DNAinfo New York first reported that Belmont Business Improvement District had to cancel the festivities to pay for a security guard to combat a surge in homeless beggars.
However, City Councilman Ritchie Torres stepped in to cover the costs using Council district funds, and the ceremony was able to go on.
The lighting occurred at Ciccarone Park as part of a holiday festival from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. that included hot chocolate, Italian cookies and an appearance from Santa Claus.
The DNAinfo report resulted in a flurry of attention, with Mayor Bill de Blasio blaming the cancelation on three particularly aggressive panhandlers and homeless advocates criticizing the Belmont BID for using the homeless as an excuse to not hold the event.
Torres, who lit the tree on Saturday, will also make sure the Belmont BID receives enough funding in next year's budget to not worry about having to cancel the event.
“The Arthur Ave. Christmas Tree Lighting is a staple of our community that brings joy to hundreds of residents, and it is here to stay," Torres said in a statement. "Maintaining safe communities should not mean having to cancel a tradition that brings together hundreds of Bronx families."