The People Behind Holiday Street Lights

xmas lights graham ave n 001
The holiday lights on northern Graham Ave.

Those who see the festive lights along our local avenues may chalk the phenomenon up to the magic of the season.  Many times BIDs or merchants associations gather the funds and hire the technicians. The Graham Avenue and Grand Street BIDs have kept their thoroughfares thoroughly lit usually for a couple of months starting in mid-November. The Northside Merchants Association organizes the fundraising to illuminate Bedford Avenue during holiday time. However there are some pockets that don’t have this type of oversight, that’s when a few inspired individuals put in their time and effort to brighten their neighborhood.

For instance, a north section of Graham Avenue went without lights for about eight years. The Graham Avenue BID does the lights for its part of Graham Avenue from Boerum Street to Broadway.  For many years prior to that, the northern lights were made possible by fundraising efforts led by Tish Cianciotta. She went business to business to collect money to pay for the lights, which is a lot of work. When she was unable to continue this practice Graham Avenue from Skillman to Powers Street went holiday lightless. After noticing the lights weren’t going up, Nancy Fortunato and Philomena Salvato decided to take up the torch. Nancy does the door to door fundraising with each business and Philomena hires the technicians.  The lights returned in 2018 and they are back again this year from Skillman to Ainslie Street.

The Manhattan Avenue lights had a similar revival. The lights went dark after the landlord who organized the fundraising from the businesses passed away. After a few years of seeing no lights, Donna Siafakas, owner of Peter Pan Bakery, funded lights to go up across the street by her store. This gave the idea to other businesses to join her in the following years. Since 2016 the lights have once again lit the way to Manhattan Avenue’s retail and restaurant presence. Next time you notice the rows lighted garlands and illuminated bells, bows, snowflakes, etc. take a moment to salute the hard work from those who helped to bring about this type of merry brightness.

Author: Lori Ann Doyon

Managing editor, head writer, and lead photographer of Greenline | North Brooklyn News since October 2014. Resident of Williamsburg, Brooklyn since 1990.

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