Mayor Sheehan says holiday lights should move from Washington Park

Holidays

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The Capital Holiday Lights in the Park have been a staple in Albany for decades. Now, the city is saying the display is too disruptive to stay in Washington Park.

Holiday activities are limited this year because of the pandemic, making the annual light show more popular this season than ever. However, nearby residents say it’s led to heavier traffic in the area, and in some cases, gridlock.

“On Saturday night, I was taking a walk with the baby in the stroller to get her to go to sleep,” said Andrew Neidhart, founder of Walkable Albany, “and when I came out, there were cars that were even crossing Chestnut Street—my quiet street—being very aggressive.”

Neidhardt says the traffic scene around Washington Park on weekends during the light show reminds him of his days living in New York City.

The event, organized by the Albany Police Athletic League, or PAL, has made online tickets available for the first time this year to speed up the entry process. The drive-through light display runs from the end of November to the beginning of January. 

Lenny Ricchiuti, PAL’s Executive Director, says they’re working on a reservation system so people can buy their tickets for a specific time slot moving forward. He’s also meeting with police tonight to come up with more plans to mitigate traffic. According to Ricchiuti, the traffic hasn’t been much worse this year than in the past, and the residents he’s spoken to are fine with living near the display.

Mayor Kathy Sheehan, on the other hand, says the number of cars this year have made it difficult for restaurants to deliver takeout, which is more important than ever for small businesses. “It has always been a balance,” Sheehan said, “but this year those scales have really tipped.”

Sheehan says the display would do better in a more rural area with fewer residents and less impact on common thoroughfares. On its 25th anniversary next year, the lights in the park may get a new home.

Ricchiuti says Sheehan hasn’t told him that’s a definite plan, but he feels Washington Park’s layout is ideal for the event, and added that it wouldn’t be easy to move the infrastructure somewhere else.

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