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Skillman Holiday Lights Taken Down, Businesses Decide to Fund Food Pantries Instead

Skillman Avenue Lights before they were taken down (Photo: Sunnyside Chamber)

Dec. 11, 2020 By Michael Dorgan

Now you see them, now you don’t!

Many Sunnyside residents were left scratching their heads after the annual holiday festive lights went up on Skillman Avenue – and seeing them being taken down again a few days later.

The holiday lights, which have been a seasonal feature of the neighborhood for more than a decade, have recently been funded by a collection of local businesses and groups led by the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce.

This year the hard-hit businesses didn’t have the funds available to pay for them and the contractor in charge installed them due to a miscommunication.

“We have used the company for years and they were just working on the assumption that we wanted the lights again this year,” said Manny Gomez, Chair of the SCC. However, he added, the chamber never ordered them.

Gomez said he was notified by residents that they had gone up and immediately called the company to clear up the misunderstanding.

The vendor had other jobs lined up and therefore had to leave the lights up for about a week before eventually taking them down again, Gomez said.

The lights typically cost around $25,000 and last year they ran along Skillman and 43rd Avenues. They are funded in part by small businesses.

The chamber, however, decided last month that now was not the right time to ask hard-hit small businesses to help pay for them.

The chamber, Gomez said, had thought about holding a fundraiser for the lights early last month but thought otherwise. Instead, the organization decided that it would raise funds for local pantries– which it believes is a better use of funds given the pandemic.

The fundraiser is being launched today and will run until January.

Money that would have gone for paying for the lights will now be put into the fund and distributed among four local food pantries.

“Even though people love the Christmas lights, the money will be better spent making sure residents have something to eat,” Gomez said. “After all, that is really the spirit of Christmas, giving something to help others out.”

Gomez said that there is a huge demand for food this year due to the pandemic and people being out of work.

Gomez said the chamber is looking to raise $10,000, which would be split among the pantries. The pantries include the Mosaic Church in Sunnyside, St. Teresa’s Church in Woodside, St. Raphael’s Church in Long Island City and Sunnyside Community Services, which operates a pantry at its senior center and at the Woodside Houses.

Patricia Dorfman, who is an organizer of the food fund, is appealing to local businesses, groups and residents to chip in whatever they can afford.

Dorfman said that the owners of Fresh n’ Save on Skillman Avenue have already committed to giving $3,000 to the fund.

“We understand it’s been a difficult year for everyone so we are just asking for people to give whatever they can,” Dorfman said.

  • Donations can be sent by check to:
  • Sunnyside Chamber,
  • P.O. Box 4129,
  • Sunnyside, NY 11104

The check should be made out to the “Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce” with a notation for Food Fund.

Residents will also be able to donate online starting next week via the Chamber’s website.

email the author: [email protected]


Click for Comments 
Cant trust the chamber

I would be very cautious about giving to the chamber of commerce. They have no transparency and have wildly mismanaged funds in the past and their own organization is a shambles. Give directly to the pantries, don’t use the chamber as a funnel!

Report the chamber

Who can the chamber be reported to in order for them to be forced to open their books? Last Queens DA seemed unwilling to investigate them. Maybe Melinda Katz will remove their non-profit status?

Turn the lights on

Holiday lights bring people to spend money in neighborhood and then business and costumers can donate to the pantries

eddie money

sounds fishy, put them up and take them down? are we renting per day??
sounds like BS that were saving money

stan chaz

This is a praise-worthy effort that nelps the community much more than any light display ever can.
But it seem a bit belated, since I am sure funds were expended already.
Hwever this is an excellent idea for the future, one that embodys the true spirit of Christmas and the best of religious values,


Ayn Rand on Christmas and Christmas lights:

A national holiday, in this country, cannot have an exclusively religious meaning. The secular meaning of the Christmas holiday is wider than the tenets of any particular religion: it is good will toward men—a frame of mind which is not the exclusive property (though it is supposed to be part, but is a largely unobserved part) of the Christian religion.

The charming aspect of Christmas is the fact that it expresses good will in a cheerful, happy, benevolent, non-sacrificial way. One says: “Merry Christmas”—not “Weep and Repent.” And the good will is expressed in a material, earthly form—by giving presents to one’s friends, or by sending them cards in token of remembrance . . . .

The best aspect of Christmas is the aspect usually decried by the mystics: the fact that Christmas has been commercialized. The gift-buying . . . stimulates an enormous outpouring of ingenuity in the creation of products devoted to a single purpose: to give men pleasure. And the street decorations put up by department stores and other institutions—the Christmas trees, the winking lights, the glittering colors—provide the city with a spectacular display, which only “commercial greed” could afford to give us. One would have to be terribly depressed to resist the wonderful gaiety of that spectacle.

The Objectivist Calendar, Dec. 1976


This is pretty painful, I wish we could do a go fund me for both the pantry and the lights. I think it adds to the community and helps local businesses.

No we're too busy gofunding brats who want to travel the world.

Gofundme isn’t used appropriately here. It’s another way to leech money from unsuspecting people to get the recipient to continue doing nothing with their lives.

It SHOULD be for legit emergencies but I’ve seen them used for when people push their children into oncoming traffic to get them hit by cars.

A majority of them are lies galore.

Cynical with good reason

I find it hard to believe the company won’t be getting paid for the installation and removal of the lights. Perhaps someone should check the books.


What a perfect metaphor for the state of the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce. The lights are literally off!


Cool i feared they were taken down to put up “jimmy van bramer for mayor” in lights like a Broadway show sign.


Raising money for food pantries instead of holiday lights is the spirit of Christmas giving. It send out the right message. Its like a Hallmark movie. God bless everyone.

Gardens Watcher

I totally understand the reasons why the hard-hit local businesses can’t fund the lights this year. And the food pantries certainly need donations. Maybe a few large companies could foot the bill this year, even if done anonymously?


Makes perfect sense. We are a very religiously diverse neighborhood and the money should go to feeding people.


What? HOW MUCH did it cost to put them up and take them down????
Also, the lights on Queens Blvd are serious traffic hazard, you cannot see the traffic lights in some sections. I love those, but come on put them up, take them down.. what is this.

Proud of Sunnyside

Great decision. Lights are nice but this is what makes a holiday special. Looking forward to continuing to support our small businesses and will be sending a check to support the pantries this season. I hope all of our restaurants make it through this next round of shut downs.


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