“It is not just a quality of life problem and a noise problem,” said Mayor de Blasio in his press conference this morning, discussing the issue of illegal fireworks, “but it can also be dangerous.” For these reasons and after a protest outside Gracie Mansion last night, he announced that the city has created an illegal fireworks task force, which will consist of members of the Sheriff’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the FDNY, and the NYPD, all of whom will “go to the root cause” of the problem, which is those who are selling and profiting from the fireworks. As the New York Times reported over the weekend, the city is currently receiving 80 times as many firework complaints than usual.
What is the reason for the sharp increase? Many believe it’s sheer boredom from months of being cooped up inside. Others say it’s a form of protest against the criminal justice system and various political issues facing the nation. But regardless of the reason, New Yorkers are complaining that they can’t sleep from the constant noise of fireworks going off all through the night.
Another New York Times story reported that “The city received more than 12,500 calls to its 911 system for illegal fireworks this month,” which is 12 times the number of complaints received in the entire first six months of 2019. In Brooklyn alone, there were 4,500 complaints in June, 80 times more than the first six months of 2019. Gothamist created a map that shows where all the fireworks complaints have taken place so far in June.
The task force will work on “finding where the supply is and cutting it off at the knees” both within the city and nearby. It will consist of 40 officers each from the NYC Sheriff’s Office, FDNY, and NYPD, along with deputy sheriffs, 12 FDNY fire marshalls, and the NYPD Intelligence Bureau. The group will conduct undercover buys and sting operations, the mayor said.
As the Times explains, fireworks are illegal in New York City, but they’re often sold “from duffel bags or car trunks” in the days leading up to July 4th. As of 2014, some types of small fireworks are legal in the rest of the state but can only be sold between June 20 and July 5 and between December 26 and January 2. They are also legal in New Jersey and Connecticut, leading many to take to Twitter to say that de Blasio’s initiative is misplaced.
The city is also launching a large-scale public service campaign to education New Yorkers on the dangers of illegal fireworks, aimed particularly at young people.
The mayor’s announcement came just minutes before he told New Yorkers that the Macy’s July 4th Fireworks would go on this year, but as five-minute bursts of fireworks throughout the five boroughs from June 29th through July 1st, culminating in a finale on Saturday, July 4th, which will be televised from the top of the Empire State Building.
The issue of illegal fireworks has spread across the nation, in the San Francisco area, Sacramento, Boston, Washington D.C., and many more cities.
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