Councilman says cancelled tree lighting in the Bronx will be saved

Joe Torres Image
Wednesday, December 2, 2015

BELMONT, Bronx (WABC) -- A New York City councilman says a traditional tree-lighting in the Bronx that was in jeopardy of being cancelled will go on after all.

Business owners in the Belmont area said a spike in panhandlers had forced the cancellation of this year's celebration - an annual tradition in Ciccarone Park on Arthur Ave.

But Council Member Ritchie Torres announced Tuesday that the ceremony will take place on Saturday, Dec. 12 at 3 p.m.

Torres said he found additional resources in his budget that will go towards getting a Christmas tree, entertainment, stage and hot drinks for families and children, while still keeping security guards on patrol.

He said he will also ensure that the Belmont Business Improvement District receives enhanced funding in next year's City budget so that the event is not disrupted or cancelled.

Torres said he will be receiving a daily report on quality of life issues impacting Arthur Ave. and Belmont to ensure that private security and the NYPD are addressing concerns.

"Maintaining safe communities should not mean having to cancel a tradition that brings together hundreds of Bronx families," Torres said. "I will continue to work in close partnership with the Belmont BID to ensure the Tree-Lighting Ceremony occurs every year for as long as I represent the district."

Apparently, the Belmont Business Improvement District, which funds the yearly holiday event said money normally used to pay for the tree lighting is now used for extra security - security that is focused on the increased number of panhandlers in the area.

Eyewitness News wanted further explanation from the BID, but despite repeated attempts, they never responded.

"People begging for money is a big problem in this neighborhood. You can't walk down the street with someone coming over to you asking for money," says Monica Paciullo.

Mayor Bill deBlasio said that it all came down to three homeless individuals along the Arthur Avenue strip who have been a problem.

"They're known to the police, they're known to the Department of Homeless Services, and they're being addressed in a very forthright manner," Mayor de Blasio said.