Greenpoint residents may have noticed things getting a bit brighter along Manhattan Ave. — after nearly a month of crowdfunding, the annual holiday lights have made their triumphant return all the way from Driggs to Box St.
A GoFundMe dedicated to the holiday lights was organized by neighborhood mainstays Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop, Greenpoint Toys, Greenpoint Floral Co., and Cato’s Army and Navy store on October 28 with a $30,000 goal. But representatives from the three other participating businesses all note that it was really Peter Pan owner Donna Siafakas who led the festive charge as a way of keeping the tradition alive after reviving it when those formerly tasked with it retired.
“It started a few years back when I decided to put up some Christmas lights, just on my block,” Donna Siafakas recalled. “But it’s very expensive. Each strand is between $400 and $700, some of them are $3,000. So I did my block and people really responded, and then store owners wanted to do it for the whole avenue for the next year.”
What started just outside of Peter Pan soon grew with support from surrounding store owners on the block, culminating in Nick from Greenpoint Floral Co. starting a GoFundMe for the lights in 2020 to ease the financial burden already caused by Covid on local business owners. This year’s GoFundMe has since raised $25,328 from 115 donors, and any unused funds will go towards lighting the block next year.
“To see the support from the community is unbelievable,” Siafakas remarked. “From a lady who doesn’t live here anymore donating $5, that really touched me, to a Navy vet in his 80s who came in here and said he wanted to donate to the lights and said he remembered how it used to be and he wanted to donate, he wrote a check for $1,000. And then we have Sonny, who owns a lot of property in the neighborhood, he’s helped us since before the GoFundMe, and he gives us $15,000. I was blown away … I know folks aren’t all making a lot of money, but they give something and that’s what makes it work.”
The one thing Siafakas would want to change for next year? Lighting up the block even more. The Department of Transportation put restrictions on light placements this year, not allowing them on traffic lights or fire escapes, resulting in fewer lights than Siafakas would’ve liked and than there have been in the past.
“I’d like to thank the people in any way; [the support] is really overwhelming,” Siafakas said. “And hopefully next year will be lit up even more.”
There are also funds currently being raised for holiday lights on Nassau Ave. via GoFundMe.