Nov. 1, 2017 By Tara Law
FOREST HILLS — A Forest Hills resident has started a fundraising campaign to bring back the lights that have gone up on Austin Street every holiday season for decades.
Cat Rakowski, a local resident, started a GoFundMe campaign Oct. 31 after she learned that the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce that funds them doesn’t have the money to pay for them this year.
Rokowski, who launched the campaign with a goal of raising $5,000, had raised $570 by Wednesday afternoon.
“The lights are festive and beautiful; they promote neighborhood pride,” Rakowski said today in a direct Facebook message. She said that she hopes the funds raised through the campaign will be enough in combination with what the Chamber has on hand.
Leslie Brown, president of the Chamber, said that she was happy to see someone making an effort to bring back the lights, but is skeptical the effort will actually work.
The Chamber must have the funds within two weeks, Brown said, otherwise it will be too late to get a contractor to put them up in time for the holiday season.
In order to hang the lights, the Chamber must sign a two-year contract for $32,000— meaning that this year, the Chamber must obtain $16,000. The funds have historically been raised by local merchants and property owners.
In recent years, only two or three merchants annually donated to the lights, with most of the funding coming from property owners.
This year, the funds collected were not enough to cover the cost.
Brown said that she does not blame local business and property owners, since some of them may not have been able to afford to contribute. She’s frustrated, nevertheless, that few responded after she distributed flyers about the lights.
“I’m very disappointed,” said Brown. “If every store owner contributed $100, we would have more than enough funds.”
Rakowski said she hopes that between her campaign and what the Chamber has raised there will be enough money. “The burden should not fall fully on the community members,” she said.
Brown has proposed that the Chamber fund red and white holiday banners instead, which could decorate the streets at one-quarter of the cost of the lights. The sponsor’s name would run along the bottom of the banner.
Brown said that she hopes that if the lights do not go up this year, store and property owners will realize that the lights are important and bring them back next year.
“Maybe people will see it’s important to continue,” she said.
To contribute to the GoFundMe campaign click here