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Schenectady City Council hears more on fireworks

Schenectady City Council hears more on fireworks

Police spokesman: Just one fireworks-related ticket issued
Schenectady City Council hears more on fireworks
Fireworks light the sky over houses along Stanley Street in Schenectady on July 4.
Photographer: erica miller

SCHENECTADY -- When it comes to fireworks, the Fourth of July produced a mixed bag, according to city Councilman John Polimeni.

In some neighborhoods, the issue improved, Polimeni said at the end of Monday’s City Council meeting.

Councilwoman Karen Zalewski-Wildzunas also said as much. She said she didn’t think there were as many fireworks being set off as in previous years, but she did note the council still needed to focus on it.

Polimeni also said that in some neighborhoods there were more fireworks than ever before.

Councilwoman Marion Porterfield said it seemed as though fireworks were “everywhere.” Some people were launching them in the middle of the street -- even directing traffic while lighting them off.

Other residents seemed confused about what was legal and what wasn’t, according to Porterfield. She said she spoke to one resident she saw lighting fireworks and told him it was illegal. The person told her it wasn’t because they planned to clean up after they were done.

“They felt if they didn’t litter, it would be OK,” Porterfield said.

All this comes nearly a week after some residents said several people defied Schenectady County’s ban on fireworks of any kind, as well as the city’s fine of up to $250 per firework illegally launched.

The Schenectady County Legislature outlawed all fireworks -- including sparklers -- in April. The city amended its ordinance for public displays of fireworks a little more than a week before the Fourth of July to include a fine for fireworks illegally launched and the confiscation of any fireworks paraphernalia. Police would actually have to witness someone lighting a firework in order to issue the fine, though.

Police Chief Eric Clifford told council members during committee meetings on June 18 that his department would be stepping up its patrols. He said they would also be targeting areas such as the Mont Pleasant, Hamilton Hill and Eastern Avenue neighborhoods because the homes were closer together.

Sgt. Matt Dearing, spokesman for the Police Department, previously said there were approximately 70 fireworks-related calls. He said only one fireworks-related ticket was issued.

Fireworks had been plaguing neighborhoods in the city in the weeks leading up to and the days after the Fourth of July.

Pat Smith, president of the Mont Pleasant Neighborhood Association, and Marva Isaacs, president of the Hamilton Hill Neighborhood Association, both expressed concern ahead of the holiday, and frustration after it.

Smith referred to her neighborhood as “a war zone,” while Isaacs said she had to call out of work because fireworks kept her awake until 5 a.m.

Independent Councilman Vince Riggi said before voting to approve the fine that his main concern was enforcement. He later questioned whether the city would ever be able to enforce rules against fireworks.

Smith did speak during the public-comment portion of the meeting on Monday. She expressed her frustration about fireworks, saying people were still lighting them Sunday night until 11:45 p.m.

Smith said she understands fireworks are not as much of a priority for police, but said it is still a major issue for city residents.

Smith made some suggestions to address the situation. They included issuing a warning ticket if police are called to an address, or trying to work with residents to implement a program to address fireworks problems.

“We are trying to keep our streets a nice place to bring up a family or to live and enjoy our city,” Smith said. “This is not an issue that should be shelved for yet another year.”

Suggestions also came from Polimeni, who said perhaps the city could request that the state Attorney General’s Office potentially bring litigation against fireworks companies in other states advertising the sale of fireworks in the city. He cited the billboard from TNT Fireworks, which advertised its fireworks supercenter in New Hampshire.

“It can’t just be a Schenectady issue,” Polimeni said. “I imagine it’s an issue across the state.”

Polimeni also said he’d like to hear from residents about their suggestions on how to address the fireworks issue.

“We’ll certainly look with neighborhood leaders and other people who have ideas,” Polimeni said.

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