The Throggs Neck community came together to celebrate the holiday season in what may be the largest tree lighting and toy giveaway with Santa in the history of the annual festivities.
On the temperate evening of Sunday, December 5, the crowd at DeRosa and O’Boyle Triangle at intersection of E. Tremont and Dewey avenues numbered several hundred strong as Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, this year’s main sponsor, counted down from 12 and lit the community’s Christmas Tree. The Throggs Neck Merchants Association sponsored a toy giveaway with Santa Claus with toys were given out to the first 200 children.
The event was highlighted by the visit from Santa Claus, who was brought into the Triangle with help from the FDNY and Edgewater Park Volunteer Ambulance Corps. Santa arrived to cheers just after the tree was lit. The St. Benedict’s Children’s Choir, under the leadership of Sister Anne Kelly, sang Christmas carols and lead spectators in a sing along of holiday favorites.
“This is the happiest part of my job,” Benedetto said, noting how the event has gotten larger in the seven years he has been sponsoring it. “This has grown from a celebration of 50 to 70 people to a crowd of several hundred. The word has spread about what a fun time this is through the efforts of the Throggs Neck Merchants Association, who were intimately involved in planning the celebration.”
The sheer number of presents distributed to the eager children, who also were able to have their picture taken with Santa Claus, is a tribute to the ingenuity of the Throggs Neck Merchants Association, Benedetto said.
Throggs Neck Merchants Association president Steven Kaufman and past president John Cerini both helped when Santa got on stage and children were brought up to sit with him and receive their toys. Parents in attendance were grateful for the event, which many said helped foster a sense of community.
Mother Frances Hernandez brought her two children, Julian, 9, and Charlie, 4, to the tree lighting.
“It gives them a chance to get outdoors and into the community,” Hernandez said. “I think that it gets their spirits up because they get to see Santa and keep a toy. Everyone is out here celebrating Christmas and it brings us closer together as a community.”
Father Stephen Norton of St. Benedict’s gave a blessing before the tree lighting, reflecting the religious significance of the holiday, Benedetto stated. The event drew people not just from the Throggs Neck community, but also from surrounding communities, Benedetto said.
Councilman Jimmy Vacca and 80th assembly district Democratic state committeeman Joe McManus were also in attendance. The children should focus on doing good things for others, and when that happens, good things happen, Vacca said to the crowd. The event is a way to keep the neighborhood thriving, Kaufman said.
“When I was on stage, you could not see the concrete,” McManus said of the packed Triangle, also noting that the event fostered the sense that Throggs Neck was like a small town where everyone knows one another and feels safe.
Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 742-3393