NYC will use sting operations to stop nightly illegal fireworks

But Macy's Fourth of July fireworks will go on three nights next week.

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver
Editor, Time Out New York
Fireworks nyc brooklyn
Photograph: Shutterstock

New York City is about to crack down on the illegal fireworks that keep you up at night with a new task force that'll cut it "off at the knees," according to Mayor Bill de Blasio. 

On Tuesday morning, de Blasio announced that there would be a concerted effort to get to the root of the problem—where they are being sold—by conducting undercover sting operations.

"This is a real problem," he said, noting that illegal fireworks have been going off in all five boroughs. "We need to make sure that young people know, all people know, some adults, too, but all fireworks are not only illegal but they can be dangerous."

Starting immediately, the task force, which is made up of 10 officers from the NYPD Intelligence Bureau, 12 FDNY Fire Marshals and 20 members of the Sheriff’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation, will begin its operations, "cutting it off at the knees," the mayor said.

The FDNY will also launch a public safety campaign to educate the public on the dangers of illegal fireworks.

If fireworks have been keeping you up all night or you feel like you're going crazy hearing pops and crackles every evening, you're not alone. According to the New York Times, 1,737 complaints about fireworks came into the city’s 311 system in the first half of June, which is 80 times as many as the 21 in the same period last year.

The NYPD had made 26 seizures of fireworks and eight arrests and had issued 22 fireworks-related summonses so far this year, the Times reported last week. There have also been 5,947 firework-related 911 calls, compared with 1,590 for the same period in 2019.

Of all NYC's neighborhoods, Brooklyn's Flatbush and Manhattan's Inwood had the most 311 complaints about fireworks in the first half of June. 

Some of those setting off the pyrotechnics have been young people blowing off steam after being cooped up for months, according to the Times. But theories have surfaced that the fireworks are more than that — that they're a way to target black and brown communities as they fight for justice and systematic change.

And now, with the mayor's announcement of a task force crackdown, these fears are heightened for some.

While the city tackles the illegal fireworks, it'll allow Macy's to set off fireworks three consecutive nights in a row, leading up to the Fourth of July. The shows, which will be five minutes each, will take place Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings across the five boroughs. The time and location of each show won't be released until the night of so as to avoid making crowds in any one place, the mayor announced during the same press briefing on Tuesday.

The finale will take place on the Fourth of July from the Empire State Building. 

"It will be brief bursts, brief but mighty," he said about the shows. "This is not like what you're seeing with the illegal fireworks, you'll know this is a very professional, beautiful show."

According to Macy's, John Legend will headline this year's fireworks score and there will be a salute to frontline workers as well as music by The Young People’s Chorus of NYC.

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