City Announces Illegal Fireworks Task Force and July 4th Fireworks Celebrations

This year’s Macy’s Fireworks display will not be the traditional extended show over the East River as seen here. Instead, the City is planning on several smaller unannounced displays to discourage large crowds from gathering during the COVID-19 pandemic. Image Credit: Diana Robinson/Mayoral Photography Office

The Macy’s Fireworks announcement comes on the same day as the creation of an illegal fireworks task force. On June 23, 2020, Mayor de Blasio established a task force to investigate illegal fireworks sales following a large increase in complaints about the increase of illegal firework use across the City. All types of consumer fireworks are prohibited in New York City. 

The task force consists of ten NYPD Intelligence Bureau offices, twelve FDNY Fire Marshals and 20 members of the Sheriff’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation. The task force‘s goal is to cut off the illegal fireworks at the source, by going after suppliers, distributors and possessors of fireworks. The task force will conduct investigations and sting operations both in and outside of New York City. Following the announcement of the task force, the FDNY announced that Fire Marshals arrested two men on Staten Island in possession of over $6,000 worth of illegal fireworks, and another man in Manhattan for possessing $2,500 worth of illegal fireworks. 

The FDNY is also creating a public safety campaign about the dangers of illegal fireworks, and has already hosted several fireworks safety information sessions in all five boroughs. 

The task force announcement was followed by the City’s announcement about plans for fireworks for the Fourth of July. Instead of a single large fireworks display on July 4th, the City and Macy’s will host smaller, unannounced fireworks displays all around the City between June 29th to July 1st. Footage of the displays will then be put together and broadcast nationally on NBC on July 4th. 

The smaller, unannounced fireworks displays are designed to limit crowding to view them to avoid the possible further spread of COVID-19.

At a July 23rd press conference, Mayor Bill de Blasio stated, “It will not be like the past where there’s one big giant show. We do not want a lot of people out watching. There’s not going to be a single focal point. In fact, we’re only going to let out information about specific points very close to the actual moment when these shows happen . . . The idea is very brief bursts, brief but mighty. And this is not like what you see with the illegal fireworks. You’ll know this is a very professional, beautiful show. People get a moment to experience it, feel good about it.” 

It is not clear exactly how much notice New Yorkers will get prior to the start of each show, the means that notice will be given, or how residents may know the difference between the City’s official fireworks displays and the illegal fireworks displays that have been occurring for the past few weeks. However, the City aims to provide a positive experience and morale boost for New Yorkers as New York has dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic over the past few months. 

Mayor de Blasio went on to say, “We’ve all been through so much and we are finally making sustained progress. Knock on wood. We got a lot more to go, but every one of you who has worked so hard on the social distancing, the shelter in place, the face coverings to get us to this day, we’re celebrating you. We’re celebrating this city. We’re celebrating this country at a moment where we all need to take stock and be proud of what we have done together. . . . We need to be inspired at this difficult time.”


By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the CityLaw fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2018.)



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