By Matthew Fischetti
Growing up in downtown Brooklyn, Atlantic Ave. was the whole world to Jabr Zanta. And now, his stretch of the world represents him a little more.
That’s because the Brooklyn Avenue now sports Ramadan Holiday Lights for the first time. A week prior to Ramadan the Atlantic Avenue Business Improvement District hung up and illuminated lights celebrating the month-long Muslim holiday between Fourth and Third Avenue and between Court and Clinton Streets.
32-year-old Zanta first moved into the nabe when he was a year old, living on Atlantic Avenue. Today, he is the owner of Diwan Cafe, a Yemeni Coffee shop which sits on the same street.
“Now that I’m a merchant on Atlantic Avenue, it’s like a dream come true,” said Zanta. “It’s not only being recognized, It’s also being shown me the right light.”
Atlantic Avenue BID Executive Director Kelly Carroll said that the move was inspired by the Bay Ridge Fifth Avenue BID, which hung Ramadan lights for the first time in 2021.
“To me it seemed to be an obvious choice to do this for Atlantic Avenue, and odd that it hadn’t been done before,” Caroll said at a Thursday March 23 press conference, announcing the new lights.
“It is my hope that we can begin to do this corridor-wide next year and years afterwards. And beyond that, it’s my hope that more bids in New York City or commercial corridors in general that celebrate with illuminations start celebrating the holy month of Ramadan to reflect our population of New York City,” Caroll continued.
In an interview with the Brooklyn Star, Caroll emphasized the long history of Arab and Muslim populations that first arrived to Brooklyn after being displaced by the construction of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. Prior to the construction of the tunnel, many Arab immigrants lived in Manhattan in the nabe known as Little Syria’.
“That’s when Sahadi’s got here – Although they’re not a Muslim business. That’s when a lot of these Middle Eastern businesses started pouring into Atlantic Avenue,” Caroll explained, referencing the long standing Middle Eastern grocery store. “So we have a long history of representing this population, and this is just an obvious choice to celebrate them.”
This is a beautiful moment for us, a beautiful moment for Yemeni Americans and a beautiful moment for Muslims in general,” said Youseef Mubarez, the Public Relations Director for Yemeni Merchant Association.
Mubarez continued to emphasize the setting of the press conference, which was in front of Fertile Crescent,a muslim grocery store and Halal Butcher.
“Everyone comes here to their Ramadan food – their dates. I mean, it couldn’t have been more perfect. I’m telling you, right here’s the perfect spot.”