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New York is a cast of characters at Christmas

Just as Dickens’ Christmas tale gets retold each year, New York hasits own recurring Christmas characters: Salvation Army bell ringers,sidewalk tree sellers and Lou Nasti, who pioneered window displays ofanimated toy soldiers and elves 40 years ago.<p></p>

Just as Dickens’ Christmas tale gets retold each year, New York has its own recurring Christmas characters: Salvation Army bell ringers, sidewalk tree sellers and Lou Nasti, who pioneered window displays of animated toy soldiers and elves 40 years ago.

Nasti still tinkers away in his Brooklyn workshop building such elaborate displays as the 75 dancing teddy bears and penguins at Park Avenue Plaza. “I’m not a doctor. I can’t cure you, but I can make you smile,” he said. “My name is Nasti. Go figure. The best thing is I look like Geppetto,” the toy maker from Pinocchio.

This year there’s less demand for his skills. “Buildings that used to do a lobby for $30,000 to $40,000 are now putting up a tree and wreath for $1,500,” he said.

New Yorkers are also buying smaller Christmas trees, said Jacob Podkaminer, 24, whose father has been selling his upstate New York Trumansburg Trees at the Union Square Market for 30 years. “People usually looking for an 8-foot are buying a 7-foot,” Podkaminer said.

Luz Ciriaco, a cadet with the Salvation Army, said donations are up. She noticed a disparity though: on Wall Street, she sees up to $200 a day; at Rockefeller Center it’s $1,000.

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