The sidewalks on either side of a quaint, tree-lined suburban street are packed with visitors stopping at each house, taking pictures, eating candy-canes and enjoying an evening in the crisp December air, looking at some of the most extravagant and over-the-top Christmas light displays in the country, let alone the city.
Such is a December’s evening in Dyker Heights, a tight-knit, small neighborhood sandwiched between the Gowanus Expressway to the west and the D train to the east in the southwest quadrant of Brooklyn.
Dyker Heights, or, as the locals call it, Dyker, was originally founded as an ideal suburb near the turn of the century. Just a short ferry ride from the commercial center in Manhattan, Dyker offered large, spacious homes for wealthy businessmen, complete with sweeping views of the Lower New York Bay.
Dyker Heights retains much of that character today, with many of those century’s-old homes still standing, and still being lived in. There are newer homes in Dyker however, and many of them are among the largest houses in Brooklyn.
Along main and side streets, Italian and American flags are a fixture of Dyker Heights culture. Thirteenth Avenue, one of the neighborhood’s busiest thoroughfares, is home to fine Italian-American goods, especially in the vicinity of 80th Street. These include Tony’s Pizzeria, Mona Lisa Bakery and La Bella, a large market specializing in Italian-American specialty goods.
Due in large part to the Italian-American population, Dyker Heights has a largely Christian – especially Catholic – culture. The area has several churches, including three Roman Catholic churches, despite Dyker only having a population of roughly 40,000 at the 2000 United States Census.
The neighborhood – especially the core of it, between 79th and 86th Streets, and 10th and 13th Aves. – has come to be renowned for extravagantly bright, incredibly ornate displays of Christmas lights.
‘Dyker Lights,’ as the displays are sometimes called, has been a fixture in the neighborhood for some time, and is an annual tradition that New Yorkers come from far and wide to witness.
Homeowners in these blocks have their homes completely decked out for the holiday. Many homes have each window, door, gutter, column and peak lined with strands of multi-colored or classic white Christmas lights.
Some homes even go so far as to light the plants in their small front yards – even the lawns themselves. Several homes had the trees on the sidewalk wrapped completely up the trunk, including one particularly ornate display in which each tree was completely covered from top to bottom.