Bums declare war on Christmas
Vagrants are urinating in the street, hassling passers-by for cash — and now they’ve ruined Christmas in The Bronx.
The annual outdoor Christmas tree lighting in the borough’s famed Little Italy section was canceled because the soaring panhandler population forced the sponsors to spend so much on security that there was no cash left for the celebration.
“It’s unfortunate,” Frank Franz, treasurer of the Belmont Business Improvement District, told The Post. “It was a very expensive event, so we canceled it.”
The BID, he said, had to weigh the price of public safety against that of the holiday festivities, which cost about $15,000.
“Every neighborhood should be concerned about the safety and the quality of life of their neighborhood. There’s always been homeless around, but now you’re seeing an increase all over the city,” he said about the sharp rise of aggressive panhandlers.
One business owner, Rosa Paciullo, who for 20 years has owned Tino’s Delicatessen with her husband, Giancarlo, said bums even used the Vincent Ciccarone Playground where the lighting was held as a public toilet.
“My daughter took her daughter to the [Ciccarone] park and a homeless guy peed in front of them. Some of them would come in and ask for money or food. It scared some of the customers away,” she added.
Franz said the BID had to hire added security over the summer to keep the area safe for shoppers and merchants.
The tree lighting had been celebrated in the playground on Arthur Avenue for at least four years, and drew hundreds to the shops and restaurants in one of the borough’s main tourist attractions.
Other merchants said Friday they were disappointed that the popular outdoor lighting won’t take place — even though an indoor lighting is planned for Thursday at the Arthur Avenue Retail Market, featuring Bronx-born “Sopranos” star Dominic “Junior” Chianese singing and signing autographs.
“I think it’s terrible” the outdoor lighting was canceled, said Michael Teitel, whose father owns Teitel Brothers specialty food importers, an Arthur Avenue institution for a century.
“They started a tradition and they should keep it going. It’s heartbreaking for kids. I got kids. I’m still a kid,” he said.
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