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DOT Temporarily Pulls the Plug on Some of Sunnyside’s Holiday Lights

The Sunnyside holiday lights on Greenpoint Avenue in 2016 (Photo via Facebook)

Nov. 30, 2021 By Michael Dorgan

The Sunnyside holiday lights typically mark the beginning of the festive shopping season and a bumper few weeks for local merchants.

However, this year, about one-third of the installations that typically line Greenpoint Avenue and Queens Boulevard have not gone up since the DOT is strictly enforcing its own safety guidelines.

Nine out of the 26 installations are not up this year – despite the same installations going up in the same locations in previous years, according to Sunnyside Shines, which oversees the Sunnyside Business Improvement District (BID) and organizes the lights.

The decision has infuriated business leaders – who argue that the lights promote commerce and that the DOT’s strict enforcement is hurting the local economy and small business owners.

“It’s the season for cheer, but @NYC_DOT has chosen to kick our small businesses when they’re already down,” a tweet posted Monday by Sunnyside Shines reads. “Greenpoint Avenue and its merchants need every lifeline they can give them right now. Our small businesses need to be back in the black, not stuck in the dark.”

The tweet was accompanied by a picture of Greenpoint Avenue without holiday lights.

The holiday lights are an annual Sunnyside tradition and have been going up on the Queens Boulevard and Greenpoint Avenue corridors since 2008 to promote the district. The light fixtures are the same each year, featuring snowflake designs and various signage.

A picture of Greenpoint Avenue without its festive installations, that was tweeted by Sunnyside Shines Monday (Sunnyside Shines)

The lights on Greenpoint Avenue came under the most scrutiny from the DOT.

Jaime-Faye Bean, executive director of Sunnyside Shines, said the DOT rejected many of the lights that were supposed to go up along that stretch.

The DOT, Bean said, informed Sunnyside Shines that the lights didn’t meet minimum height requirements—posing a risk to drivers who may become distracted by the low-hanging structures.

Some installations on the south side of Queens Boulevard were also flagged. They were rejected, she said, for being too close to traffic signals, pedestrian lights or the 7 line viaduct structure. Most of the lights on the north side of Queens Boulevard have gone up without issue.

The DOT, in a statement, said that some of the proposed installations were not approved for safety reasons. The agency cited electrical issues as the reason but did not go into detail.

“We look forward to helping every neighborhood embrace the holiday spirit, but safety always comes first,” said Vin Barone, a spokesperson for the DOT.

The DOT, however, now appears to be taking a softer approach following the BID’s tweet.

Bean said the DOT gave Sunnyside Shines verbal approval for the full set of lights to go up shortly after the tweet was posted.

As a result, the BID is now working with its subcontractor to erect the remaining installations later this week, Bean said.

Nevertheless, she is still concerned that the agency may go back on its word. She also criticized the DOT for the debacle since the fixtures go up at the same spots every year.

Bean said the delay hurts local small businesses since the lights attract customers to the neighborhood and create a vibrant shopping environment.

“It’s very frustrating and it just seems like the wrong thing to focus on after everything businesses have been through,” Bean said.

“There are so many pedestrian and road traffic safety issues around New York City and for [holiday lights] to be the one focus on seems to be so tone-deaf, priorities are out of whack.”

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25 Comments

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Ingo Overton

The DOT was right to object to the lighting because it is too low and it blends in with the traffic lights, I noticed this independently of the DOT, and thought to myself “how come nobody else noticed this?”

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Baykal

Omicron is here. Its not tome to party until we learn more about this new variant. Wear a mask and Cancel Christmas.

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Nicole

So outside dining structures and lights are ok on the street but Christmas decorations are a safety hazard. Makes no sense.

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There is stupid then there is Fox stupid

Nicole – outside dining isn’t usually covered in lights and electricity

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Nicole

Street dining structures are covered in lights, plants, ceiling fans, electric heaters, decorations, etc. Get off your pc and give fox news a break and go for a walk after sundown.

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This is so sad.

Coming up on two years of this depressed universe. Enough!

But please! Garner more money for your damned bike lanes and drag queen story hours!!!

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George Ost

The city is going backwards again !! They take away everything good and add things that are detrimental. The next thing they’ll do is erect 10,000 bike racks along the sidewalks so people can’t pass. I now live in Florida and won’t return because the city is getting worse.

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G e.t.

I’ve lived in Sunnyside close to 25 years. Shame on the DOT once again. You’ve continued to make decisions without knowledge of what is truely needed in our communities!!! Question; Who allows you 🤔???? What happened to transparency and our hard earned dollars/ taxes we pay ?

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Lucy Wetherington

Hasn’t this city and the local merchants been through enough? It’s time for some holiday cheer put the lights up already please.

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Mima

Greenpoint avenue is always neglected unlike the North Side of Queens blvd…. It is a shame and infuriating that this part of Sunnyside is not promoted, looked after, there are good working people living here, nice community…. It will make a difference for the small businesses who are struggling and bring some cheer to our neighborhood.

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Scrooge

Curious about any existing data out there to support the idea that the lights lead to increased sales
as well as the DOT data about safety concerns of the distracting low-hanging lights.

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Lucky number 7 train

The DOT is obviously discriminating against Christians and the Christmas Holiday. Dot you cant hang those holiday signs up there it’s not safe. even thou it’s been done since 2008. sunnyside shine sends a tweet. oh it’s a miracle its miraculously safe again. give me a break
I bet there is a new person in charge at the DOT that over sees this.

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Squad woke warrior

i am severely woke and i believe the lights are RACIST!!!!
they must be removed!!!

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Green New Deal Point

Greenpoint Avenue should be car-free anyway. It’s a terrific commercial strip and the center of a community. Fill it with pedestrians and diners and shoppers and cyclists instead of cars and trucks.

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Patret

Cars bring shoppers and diners to a neighborhood. Where cars can’t park, small businesses lose. Unless you want to keep out people who aren’t local.

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Grant Grebble

Cars can’t park anywhere except where they’re not supposed to! It’s foot traffic that brings business. How many cars do you think are stopping at these Greenpoint businesses?

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LGB!

I’m more worried about drivers distracted by their smartphones than by some Christmas lights. Anyway, it’s not like there are any consequences if you cause carnage and mayhem with your car.

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mamamia

Thanks for fighting for them, Jamie. It s for this and a hundred other things that the neighborhood will miss you.

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