Fireworks being set off from 10 p.m. through 4 a.m. nightly has become a major quality-of-life headache in several Hudson County towns and in New York City.
In Hoboken, fireworks have been exploding every night for nearly two weeks to the irritation of sleepless residents there and in the Jersey City Heights.
In response, Hoboken launched a quality-of-life, high visibility deployment of police officers on June 22 to supplement the police department’s regular night patrols, targeting whoever is exploding fireworks and committing other quality-of-life issues such as the playing of loud music, revving car and motorcycle engines, and drinking in public.
On the second night of patrols by the Quality of Life deployment, the police department received only four calls for fireworks after midnight, down from 26 on June 21, according to Police Chief Ken Ferrante. He said a 29-year-old man from Newark was caught at Ninth Street and Sinatra Drive, receiving a summons for Disturbing the Peace.
Under city ordinances, those who disturb the peace can receive a fine of $500.
On June 23, police officers arrested two men after they allegedly shot high-powered fireworks from the ground into apartment windows in the area of the Hoboken Housing Authority.
According to a press release from the police, shortly after 12 a.m. on Monday, June 22 officers responded to the area of Third and Jackson streets on areport of fireworks exploding.
When uniformed officers arrived, no one was shooting fireworks, and the area appeared to be in order.
On Tuesday, June 23 the police received evidence which showed two men allegedly in possession of fireworks, which the department’s press release called a “Shotgun Candle” or a “high powered Roman Candle.”
The evidence shows two men, identified as Hoboken residents Elijah Scott, 20, and Tyreses High, 19, allegedly working together to shoot fireworks at 320 Jackson St., striking the building and almost hitting windows.
“Approximately 40 windows were exposed to the potential of the fireworks exploding on or within the apartment,” states the release.
Police charged Scott with Possession of Fireworks, Conspiracy to Commit Aggravated Arson, and Weapon Possessions.
Police charged High with Aggravated Arson, Weapons Possessions, and Possession of Fireworks.
Both men were transported to the Hudson County Correctional Facility and are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
Why the light display?
According to Police Chief Ken Ferrante, there are four main theories as to why fireworks are being set off, according to “mainstream media as well as social media.” They include support of recent protests against police brutality; freedom of expression; teens and young adults releasing frustration over being cooped up at home due to COVID-19; and a charge that police, the fire department, and government are releasing them in relation to the protests.
“No one knows for sure, but after dealing with this the past 12 nights in Hoboken, I can assure our residents that police officers, fire fighters, nor government officials are setting off these fireworks in Hoboken,” Ferrante said. “No matter what the reason is, the time that the conduct is occurring is unacceptable and is causing problems for Hoboken’s 53,000+ residents and first responders.”
According to Ferrante, many groups set fireworks off in all areas of the city, and “organizing and meeting points were proven to be along Sinatra Drive.”
He said large groups have been congregating on the waterfront, playing loud music, setting off fireworks, and drinking and urinating in the parks, noting that fireworks can lead to safety hazards. Over the weekend, fireworks in Queens, NY, led to a three-alarm fire where 12 firefighters were injured.
Ferrante said he also asked the mayor and administration to put forth legislation banning the sale and use of fireworks in the city.
The Fire Department is helping by doing inspections at stores to ensure that they are not currently selling illegal fireworks.
The state’s Explosives and Fireworks Act was amended in 2017 to allow anyone 16 years old or older to purchase, possess and use “certain sparkling devices and novelties,” according to the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs.
According to the state DCA, fireworks are limited to handheld or ground-based sparklers, snakes, and glow worms; smoke devices; and trick noisemakers, including party poppers, snappers, and drop pops. All others require a valid permit.
Members of the community who see groups of people setting off fireworks late at night are asked to call the Police Department at 201-420-2100, as it’s happening.
Jersey City, too
Jersey City residents are also reporting fireworks and loud booms during late night hours in various areas of the city.
According to city spokesperson Kimberly Wallace Scalcione, there have been “a staggering increase of residents complaints and related calls to the JCPD.”
As a result, the administration created a Community Response Unit which primarily responds to fireworks and noise complaints as well as other similar quality-of- life issues that typically “become more of an issue during summer months.”
The unit includes a supervisor and four Jersey City police officers who are tasked with responding, monitoring, and tracking these quality-of-life infractions to help curb the number of incidents.
Booms and bangs over Bayonne
In Bayonne, Police Chief Robert Geisler said fireworks use has been on the rise over the last few weeks.
“The nuisance of fireworks, both in sound and safety, is a concern,” Chief Geisler said. “The Bayonne Police Department is committed to ensuring Quality of Life complaints are taken seriously and dealt with expeditiously.”
The use of illegal fireworks and violations of the city’s noise ordinance will be enforced by police, Chief Geisler said and the Bayonne Police Department is designating officers to ensure proper fireworks sales.
“In a proactive approach, we have assigned officers to perform inspections of businesses to ensure that any fireworks being sold comply with all statutory regulations,” Chief Geisler said. “It should be noted, however, that many fireworks that were once illegal, may now be sold in New Jersey.”
Any resident that witnesses the use of illegal fireworks, or the use of fireworks during the ordinance hours, are advised by the police to call the Public Safety Communications Center at 201-858-6900.
Noise complaints in North Hudson
Across North Hudson, police departments are dealing with the same issue.
In Union City, the use of illegal fireworks is negatively impacting the quality of life according to the Union City Police Department.
Officers have responded on multiple calls over the last week, into the early morning hours.
“Please be safe, please be considerate,” the Union City Police Department said, listing the types of illegal fireworks on social media. “The only fireworks that New Jersey law permits are sparklers, snakes, glow worms, party poppers and snapper style. Roman candles, bottle rockets, and skyrockets are illegal.”
North Bergen is no stranger to the non-stop mystery fireworks.
The North Bergen police had a simple message for residents on social media.
“If it’s up in the air or explosive, it’s illegal,” said the North Bergen Police Department. “Be safe, be kind to your neighbors and keep it simple with sparkles!”