Remaking a spectacle
One man's crowning achievement - a massive new top to his Christmas display - is drawing the wrath of city inspectors and some neighbors
Luberto has constructed a 10-foot-high, 650-pound crown, which the city contends is a structure that requires a permit. (John Tluamcki/ Globe Staff)
Every year, the decorations and lights go up. And every year the display is more outlandish. Through it all, Dominic Luberto's neighbors have lived with traffic, glare, and fears of electrical fire created by the tens of thousands of Christmas lights used to turn his $1.7 million Arborway house into a winter wonderland.
Now they have a new worry: The 10-foot-high, 650-pound gold-colored crown he has placed on top of his slate-roofed, three-story, Tudor-style castle.
"I'm just hoping there's not a wind storm and that thing comes down and hits some kid walking to school," said neighbor Mitchell Turnick. "I love lights. I just don't want anyone to get killed."
Last month, the city filed a court complaint against Luberto, saying he ignored an order to remove the crown.
"It is a structure," said Bill Good, commissioner of the Inspectional Services Department. "He built it without a permit. We gave him 24 hours to get a permit, and he has not complied."
Luberto argues that the crown is a temporary Christmas decoration that doesn't require a permit.
"When I do something, I do it right," said Luberto, jumping on the crisscrossing planks that support the crown to demonstrate their strength. "This thing's not going anywhere, not until after Christmas."
Luberto started building the crown in August, soaking two-by-fours in the 42-foot swimming pool behind his house and then bending them around the cul-de-sac in his driveway.
He and a cousin then covered the planks in plastic, painted it gold, and attached wreaths, light-up snowflakes, and huge ornaments. Light-covered balls 2 1/2 feet in diameter sit atop each of the six points of the crown, which is attached to the house with several black and red ropes. The whole process took 46 days.
"I've been wanting to do this a long time," he said. "It's for the king of kings, Jesus. If he wasn't born, there wouldn't be Christmas."
The crown is the latest addition to Luberto's annual Christmas spectacle, which features hundreds of thousands of lights, inflatable characters, and a reindeer and sleigh that appear to be flying.
The show costs thousands in supplies and power bills. It attracts hundreds of people each year and has been featured by news organizations around the world.
"I get letters from people from all over saying thank you for the lights," said Luberto's wife, Isora. "Sometimes, they don't write the address on the envelopes. They just put 'Castle of Lights,' and they still get here."
"I don't know if I can accomplish it," he said. "Every year I want to make it better. . . . The looks on the kids' faces when they come here, I love it."
But not all of the neighbors in this tony enclave of million dollar houses nestled along the parkway near Jamaica Pond are as inspired by Luberto's creation.
"If you have to ask, you don't have eyes," said one woman after parking her Volvo.
Turnick, whose house sits behind Luberto's, said the crown is just the latest problem. Neighbors have also had land disputes with Luberto and say he installed a fence around his pool that is too high. They have also complained about his security lights.
"He has not endeared himself to the neighborhood," said Turnick, whose own home was decorated for Halloween.
Turnick doesn't mind the lights, but he would like his neighbor to build the crown to code, turn off the lights in back that shine into his family's bedrooms until 1 a.m. each night, and hire a police detail to control traffic.
"People just stop in the middle of the street," Turnick said.
Not everyone is turned off. Melania Bogado of Paraguay has been staying with her daughter across the street and has been watching Luberto's progress. "Me, I love it," she said in Spanish. ". . . My granddaughter thinks it's the house of Santa Claus."