Oct. 27, 2021 By Christian Murray
The streets of Sunnyside Gardens will be closed for a few hours Sunday night to make way for approximately 1,000 kids who will be trick-or-treating.
The annual Halloween event through Sunnyside Gardens will return this year in full force after the pandemic crimped festivities last year.
“I’m expecting 1,000 kids to come this year—and about 500 adults,” said Dan Maskara, who lives on 45th Street and has gained a reputation for producing the spookiest house in the neighborhood each year. “It’s going to be big.”
Maskara, who has been in contact with the NYPD, said that 44th, 45th, 46th and 47th Streets between Skillman Avenue and 39th Avenue will be closed for about three hours Sunday to ensure that the participating children are kept safe from traffic.
The festivities typically take place between 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. on Halloween night. “Around 6:30 p.m. it gets crazy and the streets fill right up.”
Maskara, who has been decorating his house each Halloween for about 15 years, said that the number of children participating has grown significantly over the years.
Six years ago he reached out to city officials to get 45th Street—between 39th Avenue and Skillman Avenue– closed for safety purposes. It was expanded with the help of Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer to the neighboring streets the following year.
Maskara’s house has gained notoriety for its horrors. In fact, in 2013, the Sunnyside Post held a Halloween competition and his home at 39-45 45th St. was voted the “Spookiest.”
He said that people often come by and say: “I’ve been hearing about your house for years.”
This year he has adopted the theme of “The Shining,” and his display includes the two infamous Grady twins.
His decorations also feature a grandfather clock as well as a rocking chair with a skeleton.
There is also a door that has piece hacked out of it to expose the face of Jack Nicholson. The door has a hatchet in it and has the word redrum scribbled on it.
Maskara said that he also has miniature doll house on the front yard with the Norman Bates character from Psycho in it as part of a murder scene. Leatherface from the The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is in doll house too.
On the roof, there is a toy chest up with a a demonic head sticking out of it and an old bassinet with a doll from 1912.
The theme selected each year, Maskara said, is a family decision.
“We have a serious sit down about a month before [Halloween],” he said. This year his 10-year-old daughter selected the theme. In recent years themes have included the Exorcist and Psycho.
Maskara will also have projectors playing classic horror films. One projector will be playing The Skeleton Dance–a 1929 Disney classic—on his second-floor window. On a screen beside his house, he will have a super 8 projector playing movies such as Frankenstein, Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Creature Walks Among Us and Dracula.
Maskara estimates that at least 10 houses per block are decorated each year. Last year, however, Halloween was more subdued given COVID-19.
Van Bramer, who lives on 46th Street, said that the number of children trick or treating in Sunnyside Gardens has increased over the years.
He said that the event is a long tradition in Sunnyside Gardens.
“Halloween in Sunnyside Gardens is one of my favorite nights of the year,” Van Bramer said. “When we moved to 46th Street almost 20 years ago I couldn’t believe how many kids there were. I had only bought a couple of bags of candy.”
This year Van Bramer said that he will be armed with 2,000 pieces of candy given the number of children expected.
He said that he admired Dan Maskara and his wife Meridith who have played a role in building the event over the years. “They represent the spirt of the neighborhood.”
Van Bramer said the event has a reputation far beyond Sunnyside Gardens. He said that when he hands out candy each year he meets families from Jackson Heights, Astoria and all over Sunnyside and Woodside.
“The neighborhood embraces everyone. It’s great to see.”