SCHENECTADY — The Fourth of July might be less than a month away, but some residents say they’re already hearing illegal fireworks in their neighborhoods.
Pat Smith, president of the Mont Pleasant Neighborhood Association, and Marva Isaacs, president of the Hamilton Hill Neighborhood Association, expressed their concerns to City Council members during their regular meeting on Monday.
They both said they have been been hearing the sounds of fireworks since last week. But these aren’t ones that display pretty colors; Smith and Isaacs said they just cause a loud “boom.”
They both said the fireworks continue until almost 3 a.m.
“They go off and the neighbors say it rattles their windows,” Smith told The Daily Gazette.
“It’s ridiculous,” Isaacs said. “Something has to be done about it.”
The topic of fireworks was addressed during City Council Committee meetings on May 21. Councilwoman Leesa Perazzo had asked during the meeting if there was a way for the council to seek solutions in stopping residents from lighting off professional-grade fireworks.
“It was preemptive on my part because last year was just really difficult,” Perazzo said. “There’s no magic answer to this.”
City Police Chief Eric Clifford was scheduled to speak with council members during the June 4 committee meetings. However, he was not able to attend because of a nearly six-hour standoff that occurred on Plymouth Avenue.
Clifford did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.
Counties were given the ability to choose whether to allow the sale of sparklers and ground-based fireworks following a 2014 law passed the the New York State Legislature. They could be sold in the days leading up to the Fourth of July and New Year’s Day.
The state Legislature then fully legalized the sale of those items with another law in 2017.
The Schenectady County Legislature originally agreed to allow the sale of fireworks following the passage of the 2014 law, but found that it led residents to believe they could shoot off larger illegal fireworks.
Gary Hughes, majority leader of the Schenectady County Legislature, said emergency services were inundated with calls regarding fireworks going off.
The County Legislature in 2017 repealed the law allowing for the sale of sparklers and ground-based fireworks. And in April, it opted out of the state law, continuing to ban the sale of those items.
The City Council passed a resolution in March supporting the continued ban of fireworks in the county.
Both Smith and Isaacs said they hope police could do something about the issue this year. They suggested maybe there could be an immediate fine levied against any offenders.
Smith said the most effective way of reducing the issue was by hitting people’s pocket books.
“If you get a $50 ticket the first time, and then after that and [police] get called to your house again, make it $250,” Smith said. “I think it’ll stop people. People will think twice.”
Isaacs also suggested police not use their sirens when responding to calls regarding fireworks. She said people using fireworks can hear the sirens, immediately stop what they are doing and disperse.
“Then police don’t see anybody out there,” Isaacs said. “When [police] leave, they start again.”
Councilman John Polimeni said the use of illegal fireworks is a quality of life issue. He said people don’t need to be hearing fireworks until early in the morning, and they shouldn’t have to worry about a fire occurring because of them.
Polimeni said city police do what they can to address the issue, and hopes they will be increasing their patrols this year.
“It’s a tough situation,” Polimeni said. “Hopefully we can do our best and do it a bit better.”
Independent Councilman Vince Riggi said he hasn’t heard any fireworks in his neighborhood just yet. But he did say the situation with fireworks in the city last year was “out of control.”
The way to get control of the situation, he said, is enforcement.
“It’s definitely a Police Department issue,” Riggi said. “I would hope they are at least making officers aware to be on the lookout and keep their ears open.”
Smith and Isaacs say they know the police are doing the best they can, but they wished those with fireworks were a little more cognizant of their neighbors.
“People who do this probably don’t realize the dangers and ramifications of it,” Smith said. “You just have to realize that after 8 p.m., people go to bed.”
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