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Tree lighting at Shore Road pk. ignites spirit of the season in Bay Ridge

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Konrad Brzezinsky’s eyes sparkled like ornaments on a Christmas tree as he scrambled onto Santa’s lap at Shore Road Park and told him his holiday wish list.

The pot-bellied man in the red suit listened intently and then nodded at the enraptured boy who walked away smiling before melting in the crowd at the gazebo on Shore Road near 89th Street where a fir-lighting last week — organized by the Shore Road Garden Council of Shore Road Parks Conservancy — switched Bay Ridge on to the season of good cheer.

“It was one of the best times, ever,” said Conservancy Vice President Chip Cafiero, a father of five who has tooled around town as the planet’s jolliest icon for the past 15 Yuletides, lately without even having to pad his suit with a pillow, he added.

The season’s main man added extra zest to his mystique by dispatching helpers to find out children’s names ahead of time so that he could greet them all personally.

“Wow, Santa knows who I am!” kvelled 6-year-old Amy Watkins from Bensonhurst, the words pouring out of her mouth like a waterfall.

For Cafiero, who will ho-ho-ho at a half-dozen other tree lightings this month, the labor of love comes with a stockingful of rewards — and a couple of coals. That would include precious hugs from pint-sized believers, being tinkled on by an over-excited tot and cheesing off a meter maid who slapped him with a ticket one year for double-parking his car along Third Avenue while distributing gifts.

“I was on a horse-drawn wagon and the car following me had the toys in it,” said the man of one season, whose brush with the municipal Scrooge made headlines and sprouted camera crews outside his Bay Ridge home.

Not even St. Nick could save him from the $115 fine, recalled Cafiero, chalking up the episode as one of life’s mysteries — just like Santa, himself.

Kris Kringle isn’t always up for a merry mingle, though, explained his doppelganger.

“It’s the hardest thing sometimes to put on that suit, but it makes you feel instantly happy, that’s its magic.”

That joy spills over to his faithful fans who sometimes try to woo the bloke from the North Pole with unwelcome gifts.

A few years back, one girl came bearing hot chocolate and cookies, and insisted that he feast on them there and then — a tall task which he managed to swallow along with a few straggly, snow-white hairs, chuckled Cafiero.

“With the mustache and beard, you can’t get anything down.”

This year’s want lists are stuffed with requests for video games and electronics, said the ol’ elf, admitting that some of the appeals had even him baffled.

“A Big Foot doll? What’s that?” he inquired.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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