What to Know
- New York City residents made more than 1,700 fireworks-related complaints in the first two weeks of June, compared to 21 during the same time last year, according to city data
- Most of the loud booms are being reported in Brooklyn and in the Bronx, but they can be heard throughout the city and even further to the north in Westchester County. New Yorkers say they can't sleep
- Police are investigating a series of incidents, including one case in Manhattan where fireworks were thrown, ignited, at a man sleeping on the street; a top NYPD official decried the "inhumanity" of that crime
Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a new multi-agency task force Tuesday to crack down on illegal fireworks as complaints across the five boroughs soar to unprecedented levels for this time of year.
The task force, comprised of 10 officers with the NYPD Intelligence Bureau, 12 FDNY Fire Marshals and 20 Sheriff's Bureau of Criminal Investigation members, will disrupt illegal fireworks supply chains via sting operations within and outside New York City, de Blasio said, the goal being to cut the problem "off at its knees." The FDNY will also launch a public safety campaign, complete with a PSA on the dangers of fireworks.
It's not clear what prompted the extraordinary surge in illegal fireworks usage. The city notched more than 13,000 complaints so far through June compared with just 32 in the same period the year before. Over the past three weeks, there have been bigger displays in the sky that resemble Fourth of July celebrations, as well as examples of people intentionally shooting them at each other in "fireworks wars," as was seen in the Bronx and Brooklyn.
“For any number of reasons the use of illegal fireworks has skyrocketed this year and that has damaged the quality of life in our neighborhoods," NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said in a statement. "The NYPD will continue to work closely with our city partners to address this dangerous issue."
Later in the day, the FDNY said Matthew King, 35, and Rayval Singh, 22, were arrested on Staten Island for possession of more than $6,000 worth of illegal fireworks.
Hours later, NYC Deputy Sheriff Fireworks Task Force officers arrested four people in Brooklyn for allegedly dealing with trafficked from Pennsylvania, where such fireworks are legal.
Sleepless New Yorkers took to the streets outside de Blasio's official residence at Gracie Mansion late Monday to protest the late-night fireworks that have been jerking them from their beds all over the city each night for weeks.
Protesters created roadblocks with vehicles around the mansion before midnight and honked horns to call on the mayor to crack down on illegal fireworks.
"We came out here not to get involved in any political discussions. We came out here because we don't feel safe," one protester addressed the crowd with a microphone. "We don't sleep, nobody sleeps."
The NYPD is also investigating a series of fireworks-related incidents, including one where a group of people in Harlem were caught on camera throwing ignited fireworks at a man sleeping on the sidewalk along Lenox Avenue.
In a tweet Tuesday, NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan said "the inhumanity of this crime is shocking to anyone who watches" and vowed to take whoever was responsible into custody. In another incident, the NYPD released video Tuesday night of a man who is wanted for launching fireworks at a police car in Brooklyn.
While the police will investigate crimes such as those, Mayor de Blasio said he does not want the NYPD to have to be involved, if at all possible.
"I want them focused on the most fundamental issues of public safety," de Blasio said Tuesday.
Most of the loud fireworks are being reported in Brooklyn and in the Bronx, but they can be heard throughout the city and even further to the north in Westchester County. Over in Hoboken, police arrested two teenagers Tuesday night accused of setting of fireworks in an apartment complex, with the police chief there saying he has never seen such widespread use of illegal fireworks in his 28 years on the job.
"We are seeing 10 to 20 areas at a time with major fireworks going off," Chief Ken Ferrante said. "Whether it's on the waterfront or the west side of town, it's going off between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m."
It's not isolated to just around NYC — cities from Washington D.C. to Hartford, Connecticut, have been reporting big upticks in fireworks complaints.
Residents say the noises disturb their sleep, scare their pets and even trigger post-traumatic stress for some.