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Many Simply Curse the Darkness On Avenue D

After welcoming holiday shoppers with bright lights in 2004, the Avenue D shopping strip went lightless for the 2005 holiday shopping season. The lack of lights has not gone unnoticed and unmourned. Rather, said Terrence LaPierre, the president of the Avenue D Merchants Association, it has been the subject of questions from various area residents who expressed their disappointment at the absence of festive decorations on the avenue. “It is with great regret that when you walk out on Avenue D, the place is black,” LaPierre told fellow members of Community Board 17 during the board’s December meeting, which was held at St. Therese of Lisieux Church, 4410 Avenue D. “Last year, we had a lot of lights, and it was done by one person without any help,” LaPierre went on. “I requested help. No one wanted to give any help. I decided not to go it alone. Without help, this year Avenue D is all black. People have been calling the board office, calling me, wanting to know where are the lights. I am not going to do it alone when I requested help.” One of those who inquired about the lights was Melvina Brabham, the president of the Multicultural Block Association of Albany Avenue, between Avenue D and Foster Avenue. “We miss your effort. We miss your hard work,” Brabham told LaPierre during the board meeting. Brabham said she had made inquiries about the lack of lights, “Because so many neighbors stopped me on my way to work, asking, ‘Why is the block so dark?’” The contrast with other shopping areas, where there was “music and merry-making,” was particularly striking, said Brabham, who added, “Anything that can be done in the next year, come to the Multicultural Block Association to help you.” All together, the cost of the lights, last year, was, “Almost $11,000,” said LaPierre in a subsequent interview. The lights, he said, had been put up along the avenue between Albany Avenue and East 51st Street, thanks in large part to sizeable donations from Flatbush Gardens and KeySpan, with the merchants making up the rest. Despite the fact that a committee had been formed by the merchants association and the Kings County South Civic Association (KCSCA), said LaPierre, “I was the only one who did the walking, the begging and whatnot.” Asked about the situation, Patricia Ralph, KCSCA’s secretary, explained, “The lights are a very large-budget item. Mr. LaPierre,” she recalled during a phone interview, “single-handedly took control of that. Since we are a small organization and a very young organization, we don’t have people who are able to go out and do the footwork.” Rather than relying on such door-to-door efforts, Ralph suggested that a change be made for the future. “We need to have a fund-raising thing going, some sort of sponsorship, but that requires lead time, because the paperwork has to get in, be processed and be approved,” she said. This way, Ralph added, “We wouldn’t have one person hitting Avenue D from Albany to Utica.” The problem of getting merchants to support the lights is compounded, said Ralph, by the fact that most are small mom-and-pop businesses. “The money required to keep this project on annually is very large,” she pointed out. “We know it can be done, but we also know how much goes into it. It’s very much high on our priority list, but we have to have lead time, and we have to have people power.” The loss of the holiday lights for 2005 might be an incentive for merchants when the next holiday season rolls around, suggested board member Kenrick Wescott, a member of KCSCA. “The lights are a plus,” he contended. “Next year, when we go around and ask merchants to put up the lights, they will be very generous and giving, because they can see the difference.”

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