Light ‘em up, up, up — illegally.
New Yorkers go to extreme lengths to illegally buy and use fireworks during the Fourth of July holiday.
Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation in November that allowed counties to sell and use a limited amount of small fireworks if they desired. New York City was not one of the 30 counties to opt in for the privilege.
To get their snap, crackle and pop fix, individuals sometimes cross over to Pennsylvania, where the sale of fireworks is legal statewide, and risk smuggling them back to New York City.
Jeff Bell, manager of Phantom Fireworks in Easton, Pennsylvania, found this to be true with his business. Although he couldn’t put a number on it, it was obvoius where his customers resided.
“Everyone is out of state,” Bell told Metro. “Most of our business is people coming from New York, New Jersey and the other nearby states.” In fact, Bell said that the store rarely sees Pennsylvania residents at all because they are limited in the purchases they can make according to state law.
Some individuals turn to the heartbeat of the modern age — the Internet.
The majority of fireworks websites will not ship goods to any state where they are prohibited, but there are some who will. US Fireworks takes all orders but warned that “the responsibility for following your State law falls upon you, not us” according to a statement on its website.
They get away with this by shipping via cargo trucks as opposed to using the postal system, which prohibits mailing fireworks regardless of whether the state allows them or not.
Those who want to stay in NYC can head to Chinatown. Mott Street is where an individual can stumble upon an illegal vendor secretly selling fireworks, shopkeepers told Metro. No one advertises this service but instead nods ‘yes’ or ‘no’ when asked if they sell fireworks beyond party poppers. This occurs later in the week, closer to the actual holiday.
The FDNY, on the other hand, doesn’t care how residents got their fireworks.
“Fireworks are illegal and unsafe,” said a FDNY spokesman. “The Fire Marshall aggressively responds to use of fire works and will make arrests.”
Anyone possessing any kind of firework may be charged with a criminal misdemeanor, resulting in six onths in jail and/or a $10,000 fine. All it takes is a call to the police upon hearing firework pops to start an investigation and arrest an individual for possession.
The residents that get the most complaints for illegal firework usage are in northern Manhattan and southern Brooklyn, according to a piece by DNAinfo. Inwood had the most activity with 36 firework complaints since 2010; 15 of them occurred during the week of Fourth of July, the report said.
In order to curb use of fireworks in the five boroughs, the FDNY puts on 1,000 safety events to teach about the danger of using sparklers, rockets and the like. The NYPD has recently seized fireworks in 35 cases, made 49 related arrests and in Queens alone had 106 firework cases opened, said Chief Carlos Gomez.
It takes just one stray spark to set a bush, a home or even a person on fire. Chief Gomez stated that the NYPD will install 50 covert pole cameras in high firework volume areas and use an additional 100 officers to guarantee the Fourth of July is a safe holiday.
FDNY and the NYPD wouldn’t comment on the new law specifically in New York City. Their policy, however, is crystal clear: Leave the fireworks to the professionals.