The Southeast Town Board is receptive to a plan from a group of local residents who want to again light a town-owned tree during the holiday season, which will be paid for through private donations, that was presented at the Thursday, Sept. 27 meeting.
The tree is located on the traffic circle at the intersection of Route 6 and Sodom Road. The plan is to replace old lights on the tree with high efficiency LED white lights and to circle the tree with eight cut trees, which will be decorated in alternating red and blue LED lights.
Resident Joseph Ruszkoswi, who spoke on behalf of the group led by Joan Hay, told the town board that the $1,300 to pay for the tree lighting would be raised through private donations.
“The program will be 100 percent community funded,” he said.
Ruszkoswi told the town board he came up with the idea during the 2011 Christmas season when the tree was not lit.
“I felt this is something that we as a community really should be involved in,” he said.
Ruszkoswi said in an effort to get more residents to come out to the lighting, a holiday parade would be held on the same day as the lighting. There also would be a ceremony to recognize the town’s civic groups.
The residents are seeking to have the parade and tree lighting held on the first Sunday of December.
Ruszkoswi said the Brewster Village Fire Department would have Santa Clause ride on a fire truck during the parade and that there were plans to reach out to Brewster High School to ask if student musicians could provide holiday music during the event.
Ruszkoswi requested that the length of Sodom Road from Route 6 to Brewster Hill Road be closed for the roughly one-hour ceremony and parade.
Town Counsel Willis Stephens said the town would need approval from the state Department of Transportation to temporarily close a portion of Route 6.
Councilwoman Lynne Eckardt and her town board colleagues said they supported the efforts of the town residents to relight the town tree.
“It’s a great idea,” she said, adding that she believed any issues with road closures for the event could be worked out.
Ruszkoswi said the tree would be an asset to the town during the holiday season.
“It would be quite stunning,” he said.
Resident Susan Berman and some other residents who said they are Jewish said they supported the efforts to have the tree lit but asked if an element representing the Jewish faith could be included, too.
“We have a multi-cultural society and a multi-cultural community,” Berman said. “Maybe there should be a Menorah,” Berman said.
A holiday tree “represents no religion,” Ruszkoswi said. Councilman Robert Cullen agreed with Ruszkoswi saying a Christmas tree was not religious. Cullen added that the residents were not seeking a crèche with a baby Jesus in the display.