New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has formed an ‘illegal fireworks task force’ to crack down on the sale of explosives across the city after dozens of furious residents honked their horns outside his mansion last night demanding action on the public nuisance.
New Yorkers have grown increasingly frustrated with the noise caused by late-night fireworks that have become more frequent since the start of June and in the lead up to Independence Day.
De Blasio on Tuesday announced plans for a ‘huge sting operation’ targeting suppliers of the illegal explosives amid a steep rise in complaints from residents in the last few weeks.
‘Yes, I hear them, too. We’re taking action on illegal fireworks,’ the mayor said on Twitter.
‘We’ll be cracking down on the out-of-state suppliers behind this dangerous public nuisance so we can cut it off at the source’, he added, and ‘to ensure ‘the ability of our neighbors to get some sleep.’
Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday unveiled the city’s new ‘illegal fireworks task force’ to crack down on sales of explosives in the city, hours after fed-up New Yorkers honked their horns outside his home demanding action
Pictured: Illegal fireworks illuminate the sky over the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of the Brooklyn borough of New York City on June 19
Nights in New York City have become overwhelmed by large booms from firecrackers, bottle rocks and other explosives that were set alight across all five boroughs as nearly 2,000 complaints have been made by residents over ongoing noise throughout the night
The task force will consist of 10 officers from NYPD Intelligence Bureau, 12 FDNY Fire Marshals and 20 members of the Sheriff’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
NYC’S 2020 FOURTH OF JULY FIREWORKS DISPLAY WILL REACH ALL FIVE BOROUGHS
From June 29 to July 1 and on July 4, a series of fireworks displays will launch from various land and water-based locations across New York City.
The smaller, unannounced displays will make way for a week-long celebration.
Each show will be brief and will be over before residents can gather at the source.
A view of the fireworks during the 43rd Annual Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks in 2019
City officials advised the best way to enjoy them is by staying close to home and follow social distancing guidelines as some displays will reach up to 1,000 feet high from some firing locations.
‘These past few months have been some of the most difficult in our city’s history, and New Yorkers are looking for a break.
‘This 4th of July Celebration with Macy’s will give all New Yorkers a safe and exciting way to enjoy the holiday together, even when we are apart,’ the mayor said.
New Yorkers and spectators across the country will have a front-row view to the displays by tuning to NBC’S national broadcast of Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular (8-10pm ET/PT).
‘For any number of reasons the use of illegal firework has skyrocketed this year and that has damaged the quality of life in our neighborhoods,’ Commissioner Dermot Shea said in a statement.
‘The NYPD will continue to work closely with our city partners to address this dangerous issue.’
De Blasio also unveiled plans for this year’s Fourth of July fireworks display that will be seen from all five borough over a four-day celebration.
From June 29 to July 1, a brief fireworks show will light up the city’s skies every night before the main event on July 4.
‘This 4th of July Celebration with Macy’s will give all New Yorkers a safe and exciting way to enjoy the holiday together, even when we are apart,’ the mayor said.
It comes after data revealed fireworks complaints in New York City have soared by 4,000 per cent this month.
From June 1 to June 19, the city’s 311 hotline has seen a massive spike in noise complaints, fielding a total of 6,385 calls over fireworks, compared to the 27 calls received this time last year, according to data obtained by Gothamist.
While fireworks – albeit illegal – are commonly heard around the city during this time of year, residents have grown concerned over the frequency of the displays as well as their ‘high quality’.
‘This is not the simple firecrackers and little small toy-type rockets, but it was very elaborate,’ Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams told Gothamist.
‘When you see the large displays along Brooklyn and in Manhattan, Upper Manhattan, you’re seeing extremely sophisticated type fireworks displays that can be extremely dangerous in the hands of the wrong people.’
During a press conference on Monday, Mayor de Blasio acknowledged the trend is ‘unlike anything we’ve ever seen before’ and said city officials were working ‘on a way to address this.’
As tensions over the citywide nuisance flared, residents staged a late-night protest outside De Blasio’s Gracie Mansion demanding action.
Motorists lined up along East End Avenue on the Upper East Side of Manhattan around midnight late and honked their horns continuously hoping to get the message across to the mayor.
‘If we cannot sleep, we will not let the mayor sleep,’ New York City Councilman Chaim Deutsch, who addressed a crowd of protesters on Monday, said.
Deutsch led chants of ‘If we don’t sleep, you don’t sleep’ and, ‘We need leadership.’
Motorists lined up near Gracie Mansion, the mayor’s official residence, and honked their horns continuously demanding action
‘If we cannot sleep, we will not let the mayor sleep,’ New York City Councilman Chaim Deutsch, who addressed a crowd of protesters on Monday, said
A New York resident from the Inwood neighborhood told The New York Times the nightly displays were like’Macy’s-style fireworks’ and could be heard into the wee hours of the morning
A New York City resident in Harlem sets off a firework explosive in his hand on June 20 as some admitted to using the pyrotechnics as a peaceful, nonviolent form of protest against law enforcement
‘During these trying times, when people are trying to get their lives back together, all you hear is fireworks shooting at people out in the streets,’ Deutsch told Hamodia.
‘People are just afraid to walk out of their homes.’
The councilman said that the police are ‘afraid to do their jobs, because our mayor, our elected officials, are showing rhetoric across the city of not allowing the men and women of the NYPD to do their jobs.
‘We need them to do their jobs. We need calm here in New York City.
‘We got to put an end to this, we got to put an end to all the chaos that is happening all across the city.’
On social media, dozens of New Yorkers have complained about the ‘nonstop’ disturbance that could be heard across all five boroughs.
Videos have also emerged showing residents setting the explosives alight in the middle of the night.
Police were called to West 113th Street in Harlem early Monday morning after a man was seen lighting up a firework before hurling it at a 66-year-old homeless man.
Video of the incident showed the man laughing as it goes off. The victim was taken to St. Luke’s Hospital with minor burns, NYPD said.
DANGEROUS FIREWORKS TREND SPREADS ACROSS THE US
In Philadelphia, residents have made similar complaints over fireworks blasting throughout the night and keeping them up.
‘People are terrified because a lot of times they don’t know if they’re hearing gunfire or fireworks,’ Jean Gajary, of Mount Airy, told CBS Philly.
She added that young children and people with disabilities are getting frightened by the continual booms.
A forgotten piece of a firework display sits in a park field after several fireworks were let loose in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, last week, but some residents said the noise is overwhelming
‘I get called from someone who’s son was autistic and he’s terrified every night. People are calling me because their young children are scared and sleep-deprived.’
In response, she’d mobilized a firework task force to address the issue.
Philadelphia authorities said they’ve received 871 calls related to explosions or bombs across the metropolitan city between May 29 and June 16.
‘You’re resting and you’re going to sleep and then it’s ‘boom, boom, boom.’ You don’t know if it’s people trying to blow up ATMs, you don’t know what it is,’ said resident Rachel McDonald.
‘You don’t know what it is. It’s ridiculous and it needs to stop.’
In 2017, Philadelphia passed legislation to legalize the purchase of ‘consumer fireworks,’ like firecrackers, Roman candles and bottle rockets.
‘It has been a growing problem since they were made legal in the state in 2017,’ Gajary told KYW. ‘At that time, they started selling them in the city, even though they were illegal to use in the city.’
Some people who have joined Garjay’s task force said they had to rent a hotel or stay at a friends house to get sleep.
‘And let’s remember, they’re making these choices in the middle of a pandemic because they were that desperate.’
Some residents have even considered picking up their things and moving all together.
‘These are people, like myself, who are thinking, ”I have to leave the city if this continues.’ If you can’t sleep at night for eight weeks of the year, how do you live like that?’
Further west, illegal fire works have become a nuisance for people in California’s Bay Area and Las Vegas, Nevada.
BAY AREA, CALIFORNIA
In San Jose, residents in the Roosevelt Park and Naglee neighborhoods said they’re sick and tired of the ongoing noise.
‘It keeps me up, it keeps my kids up. My Dog burrows underneath my bed,’ local Becky Piscitelli told NBC Bay Area.
‘My kids thought it was gunshots from shotguns.’
Piscitelli added that there are military veterans and people diagnosed with PTSD who have to listen to the noise every night.
‘We have neighbors who are vets and have PTSD, and it can set them off.’
Another resident said he was out trying to get food when mistook the fireworks for gunshots.
‘We just came down to get some beers and some dinner and we just heard a pop, pop, pop, boom – thought they were gunshots,’ he told KPIX-TV.
Oakland City Councilman Noel Gallo, who lives in the Fruitvale neighborhood, admitted that fireworks were being let loose nearly every night.
‘It’s almost like at 9 p.m., it’s everybody’s time to hang loose and start shooting. They shoot up, not only fireworks, he said, according to ABC 7.
There’s activity sounds like bombs going off. And they last all throughout until two in the morning.’
Police in Oakland said with strain of COVID-19 and the current tensions with protests, officers may not have the resources to stop the fireworks.
‘As we’re standing here right now, we’re hearing the sounds of fireworks,’ said Oakland Police Spokesperson Johnna Watson to ABC 7 during an report.
‘Right now, we’re standing here at our Eastmont Substation. We know all around us we’re hearing the sounds of fireworks, firecrackers, M80s. Do we know exactly where they’re coming from? No.’
One problem officers are faced with when trying to stop illegal fireworks are vague details that don’t give a specific location. Another is that officers have to witness residents with illegal fireworks or lighting them to spark an arrest.
‘This has been non-stop, every night. On all social media platforms- Facebook, Nextdoor, you just see dozens and dozens and dozens of inquiries,’ said local Jeff Levin.
‘What was that? Did you feel that? Was that gunshots? Should I call the police?’
Authorities said fireworks may have caused a brush fire that prompted evacuations and injured on person on Friday.
In Las Vegas, illegal fireworks did cause a family to evacuate after illegal fireworks damaged their home.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that fireworks thrown away in a trash can caught fire around 11:50pm.
The fire spread from the trash can to the exterior wall, causing $25,000 in damage.
Although not injuries were reported, the residents have been displaced from their home amid a public health pandemic.
Officials in Las Vegas have reminded residents of the ‘You Light It, We Write It’ inter-agency effort to stop the use of illegal fireworks will be in full swing com July 4
A family in Las Vegas, Nevada, has been displaced from their home after a firework tossed away in a trash can lit part of the house on fire and caused several thousands of dollars in damage
The American Pyrotechnics Association told KTNV has had record breaking fireworks sales during 2020.
‘Everybody has been, you know, locked down or shut-in for three, three and a half months, the weather has finally changed too,’ said Julie Heckman with APA.
‘Nice warm temperatures and people are just itching to do something.’
But local officials would rather residents stop launching fireworks arbitrarily.
‘I understand the draw and the thrill, but please don’t,’ said Deputy Fire Chief Warren Whitney, Clark County Fire Department.
‘It effects pets, it effects seniors, and it effects those with PTSD.’
Local Laura Clark told News3LV said she’s already concerned for the loud fireworks that will come on Fourth of July.
‘It’s scary. You don’t know if it’s gun shots or dynamite sticks or if it’s fireworks–you don’t know what it is,’ she said.
‘I fear for the Fourth of July when that comes up how much they’ll be doing.’
Las Vegas officials have reminded the public that the ‘You Light It, We Write It’ inter-agency effort to stop the use of illegal fireworks will be in full swing com July 4.
‘We’re putting people on notice not to buy illegal fireworks because if we catch you using them in our local neighborhoods you will be fined,’ said Marilyn Kirkpatrick, Clark County Commission Chairman.
Residents caught using illegal fireworks in Las Vegas could be forced to pay fines of $250 to $1000 and disposal fees.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams on Monday told residents not to call 911 to report the plague of illegal fireworks that have overwhelmed the city because some view them as a form of nonviolent protest.
Adams urged concerned neighbors to ‘go talk to young people or the people on your block who are using fireworks’ and warn them of the potential risks rather than ask the beleaguered NYPD to stop them setting off displays which have been keeping New Yorkers up all night for three weeks.
‘Stopping fireworks cannot turn into fireworks between the police and the community,’ said Adams at a press conference to discuss the latest disturbance to hit the Big Apple after the coronavirus pandemic and George Floyd protests against police brutality.
‘We want a good community response to dealing with a nuisance. This is a nonviolent act. So those three numbers that we all dial, 911, get over that,’ said Adams as it was revealed the city had seen almost 2,000 complaints about the fireworks which begin at dusk and carry on till dawn daily.
Indeed, the fireworks displays have spread from coast to coast – leaving millions of Americans trying to sleep through the sound of a literal war zone.
However, for a nation gripped by the dual tensions of COVID-19 which has claimed 120,000 lives and tens of millions of jobs and the George Floyd protests, the fireworks have become a way for many to express their frustrations and further defiance against the police nationwide.
Mayor Bill de Blasio is seen left with his wife, Chirlane McCray, dining in Harlem on the first day of the Phase 2 reopening on Monday
A number of fireworks were set off on Friday in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in the Brooklyn borough on Friday in celebration on Juneteenth, but residents said fireworks have been going off before and after that
Adams was adamant that the ongoing firework disturbances should be handled at a local level by community members and organizations and not by a brow-beaten NYPD.
‘That is the role of community-based groups and organizations. That is why I’m calling on the City of New York to empower Cure Violence to go into the community and talk to the residents about the dangers of fireworks.’
The NYPD should focus less on the presence of fireworks in the city and more on stopping the flow of the pyrotechnics into the city, Adams said.
Adams pointed out that anti-police protesters, who have overwhelmed the city with demonstrations since the death of George Floyd, cannot use a double standard and call authorities over fireworks.
‘We have left the place of 911 being the response for everything in our city. Now we have to stop talking the talk, and walk the walk,’ said Adam.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams (pictured) said during a press conference Sunday that residents should stop dialing 911 and 311 to make complaints over the fireworks
‘What does community policing look like? It’s the extension of everyday residents engaging with people when there are nonviolent acts taking place in the city.’
Even more than a noise disturbance, fireworks can be dangerous and community members should be conscious of that fact.
‘These are real dangerous instruments, you could lose an arm, you could lose an eye, you could lose your life and parents need to know … your children should not be playing with this.
In a video shared to Twitter on Monday, two New Yorkers were driving through a local neighborhood when the spotted large flashes of firework explosions being set off near an apartment complex.
The colorful fireworks are dangerously flying in different directions as the two look on in awe.
Suddenly, an unidentified man picks up the active firework display and makes a mad dash across the street. A large cloud of smoke can be seen billowing behind him.
Just last week, cell phone footage captured the moment a number of New Yorkers aimed fireworks at each other.
Two men were injured in separate incidents involving the explosives, it was reported Thursday.
Cell phone footage taken last week in New York City showed a number of residents setting off large Roman candle fireworks in the middle of the night
A 33-year-old man was hit in Brooklyn and a teenager was struck in the chest in the Bronx. Both men were said to be in a critical condition.
A number of residents are already fed up with the swath of firework displays ahead of the Fourth of July.
‘These are not your normal kids playing with fireworks,’ Michael Ford, a piano teacher in Manhattan’s Inwood neighborhood, told The New York Times.
‘These are real explosives, like Macy’s-style fireworks.’He acknowledged that people may be reveling after lockdown orders for the Big Apple have begun to ease, but it’s causing additional problems.
Not just civilians! New York City firefighters caught using illegal fireworks in Brooklyn
The onslaught of firework displays in New York City are not just coming from civilians, but the Fire Department of New York City as well.
A resident living Brooklyn’s Crown Height’s neighbourhood said he and his wife were passing by Ladder 123 around 11:30pm on Tuesday when they reportedly saw a group of firefighters set off a fountain firework display.
‘I thought it was young kids lighting it. And there are. But then I see the firefighters doing it — they should know better,’ the man, a 35-year-old father, told the New York Post.
Cell phone footage of the incident shows a large, active firework display sitting in front of the fire station.
Some firefighters can be seen standing inside the station’s garage to watch the light show.
‘As public servants, I feel like they should know better than to light fireworks at 11:30 at night. It’s completely brazen wantonness,’ the man said.
‘It’s like they didn’t understand why what they were doing is so absurd. It’s late at night, there are kids. You have to be responsible and set an example.’
Officials reported a 4,000 per cent surge in firecracker complaints during the first two weeks in June, with the city’s 311 complaint line racking up 849 reports between June 1 and June 14.
The noise has gotten so unbearable in Crown Heights that the family has considered leaving the city for a vacation home so his children aren’t frightened.
‘Every parent in Crown Heights thinks it’s insane that fireworks are going off nonstop until 3 or 4 in the morning,’ he said.
‘It goes from dusk until almost dawn. It’s a major issue for me and our community.’
‘I think it’s a lot of people who have been pent-up and need to blow off steam, but it’s just adding whole other layer of anxiety.’
Fireworks can be heard going off in all five boroughs throughout the night.
In Harlem, the noise can last until 1am some nights as it varies between loud booms and small fire crackers.
‘It’s as bad as anything I can remember,’ said Adrian Benepe, an Upper West Side resident and former city parks commissioner.
‘The police have had their hands full with major issues — demonstrations, looting and Covid — and they just don’t have the time to respond to quality-of-life issues like this,’ he added.
Justin Brannan, a city councilman from Brooklyn, said: ‘I know illegal fireworks this time of year in NYC aren’t a new thing but has it ever been this widespread? I feel like every neighborhood in the city is talking about it.’
According to Brooklyn resident Djani, who was one of the several people setting of fireworks, its being done in celebration.
‘We’re basically celebrating the fact that we survived,’ he said, referencing the coronavirus pandemic and quarantine.
‘You know when you have a storm and finally the rain is letting up.’
One Twitter user argued that the fireworks were dangerous and an ‘ongoing problem’ for New York City.
But the celebration is disturbing a number of residents in cities all across the United States.
Fireworks in New York City: Where are they coming from and how much do they cost?
The recent surge in fireworks, and subsequently complaints, in the Big Apple has cast a light on how residents are forced to circumvent strict local laws to find the pyrotechnics.
Pyrotechnic sales have skyrocketed in the last several weeks and launched the industry on a record-breaking track for individual fireworks sales.
Although retailers in the city are permitted to sell sparklers and low-level fireworks during specified weeks before the Fourth of July, many residents look outwards to nearby states like Pennsylvania.
While New York City prohibited aerial fireworks, Pennsylvania retailers are allowed to sell bottle rockets, Roman candles. Firecrackers and other devices under 50 milligrams.
But they can only be sold by dedicated fireworks retailers, like Phantom Fireworks of DWG, Pocono Fireworks and Keystone Fireworks.
Residents hoping to purchase fireworks can expect to pay anywhere between $3 to $100 or higher depending on what type of firework setup they want to buy.
At Phantom Fireworks of DWG, a Skyburst Rocketry Assortment containing several aerial fireworks can be bought for $59.99.
Connecticut is another state where New Yorkers sneak off to stock up on fireworks.
Stores like Sparklers, Dabury Fireworks and Uncle Guido’s Fireworks sell pyrotechnics for similar prices.
Near Interstate 78, which overlooks the Leigh Valley area between New Jersey and Delaware, told Leigh Valley Live that they’ve seen an uptick in sales recently.
‘People who have been stuck at home are willing to get out of the house for a day and take a drive to buy some fireworks,’ said Van Oudenhove, managing director of retailer Sky Kings.
‘Anything related to entertainment is cancelled.’
In addition to boredom, Van Oudenhove thinks the surge in sales could have also happened because people are excited about loosened lockdown orders.
‘One thing about Americans is that we take patriotism very seriously,’ he said.
‘When we overcome something as a nation, we celebrate. A lot of areas are being moved towards the next phase of recovery here, and people are excited.’
American Pyrotechnics Association Executive Director Julie L. Heckman said they anticipate a great sales year ahead of them.
‘We were anticipating that this would potentially be a record-breaking year,’ said Heckman.
‘What we didn’t anticipate was, when stores started opening over Memorial Day weekend, Americans would start buying fireworks in significant quantities early and continuing that pattern as we’re moving towards the Fourth of July.’