New York

No Holiday Lights in the Park this year, moves to Altamont next year

Capital Holiday Lights in the Park, the annual exhibit that was banned from Washington Park in Albany last year, will not be held this year.

Instead, organizers said they will be offering virtual tours this year — an online video of past celebrations at the park — before resuming tours at the Altamont Fairgrounds next year.

It was initially not clear why the event did not take place on the exhibition grounds this year. The City of Albany told the city’s Police Athletic League last year that the week-long event could no longer be held in Washington Park, as neighbors complained it was causing severe congestion in the neighborhood.

“We had identified a location last April that we thought would be the perfect location, only to create new conditions that would have made hosting the event prohibitive for our small nonprofit,” said Leonard Ricchiuti, a retired police sergeant who managing director serves as PAL.

Since 1997, Holiday Lights in the Park has been PAL’s premier fundraiser and a hugely popular Christmas event that saw cars drive through Washington Park to give visitors a chance to get a glimpse of the brightly lit decorations. Albany ended support for the celebration after neighbors complained about weeks of traffic and other concerns.

David Bauer, PAL’s chief executive officer, said earlier this month the board is reviewing several alternative locations but has not found a replacement location.

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

Bauer said the board hopes to have a location fixed by mid-October. If not, the fundraiser can remain obscure for a year. (Organizers may not have time to apply for the type of permit needed for such a large, ongoing gathering.)

The Board preferred hosting the event in Albany but considered locations outside of the city as opportunities in Albany were dwindling. There was a proposal to move the event to the Harriman State Office campus, but that location was never seriously considered, Bauer previously said.

PAL relies on the annual six-week expo to fund after-school events, childcare for younger children, athletic programs, teen mentoring and leadership training.

Over the years, the heart of the city fundraiser grew from 30 displays to more than 120. But with that growth came a variety of issues, eventually leading to the city forcing PAL to relocate in response to complaints from local residents to seek civic organizations.

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

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