Albany’s Capital Holiday Lights in the Park may go dark

Albany’s Capital Holiday Lights in the Park may go dark

Just weeks before they ordinarily would begin setting up the exhibit, organizers of Holidays Lights in the Park say they do not have a location picked for this year’s show.

Since 1997, Holiday Lights in the Park served as the major fundraiser for the city’s Police Athletic League and a wildly-popular holiday season event where cars drove through Washington Park to give visitors a chance to glance at brightly-lit decorations. Albany ended support for the celebration after neighbors complained about weeks of traffic and other concerns.

David Bauer, chairman of PAL’s board, said Tuesday the board is looking at several alternative sites but has not found a replacement location.

“We’d like to have a show this year, we’re working to make that happen but at this point, we don’t have a location.”

Bauer said the board hoped to have a site set by mid-October. If not, the fundraiser may go dark for a year. (Organizers might be running out of time to file for the kind of permit needed for such a large, ongoing gathering.)

The board would prefer the event stay in Albany but would consider a site outside the city, he said.

PAL is on the annual six-week display to fund after-school events, child-care for younger kids, athletic programming, teen mentoring and leadership education.

“That’s who we serve, the children of the city of Albany,” Bauer said. “There’s such a need in the city of Albany for youth services.”

Over the years, the fundraiser in the heart of the city grew from 30 displays to more than 120. But with that growth came a multitude of problems that eventually, in the city forcing PAL to seek a new site in response to complaints from residents and civic organizations.

The nonprofit has enough in reserves to fund its programs for the next year, but Bauer said the organization couldn’t do that forever.

One suggestion made in the past was moving the display to the Harriman State Campus, but Bauer said that site was never in serious consideration.

Any replacement site has to be able to handle the traffic restrictions, the layout of the lights displays and other factors, he said.

“It has to work for the community, and it has to work for PAL,” he said.

Bauer said the group would also ask sponsors involved in Holiday Lights in the Park to continue to support PAL’s mission if the event didn’t happen.

Last year, the city granted the group a one-year reprieve in order to hold the fundraiser in Washington Park a final time while it sought a new site.

The push out of Washington Park came after years of complaints from the Washington Park Conservancy, neighborhood groups and others who said the light display had blossomed into a nightly headache.

The traffic to and from the light displays regularly caused backups and gridlock in the neighborhoods around the park, and the equipment used for the light displays would damage the park grounds.

Another major complaint was the perceived lack of responsiveness by PAL to neighborhood concerns over the years. The organization belatedly attempted to address some of those issues in an effort to convince the city to allow it to stay in Washington Park, but to no avail.

Bauer said he had not spoken with Mayor Kathy Sheehan’s office since it was announced that 2021 would be the fundraiser’s final year in Washington Park.

A spokesman for Sheehan’s office said the mayor’s office wasn’t aware PAL hadn’t found a new location and that her office had not had any conversations with PAL on a new location.