Chairman of the Albany County Legislature Andrew Joyce speaks about banning fireworks (Photo provided)
ALBANY — Ground-based fireworks may no longer be legal in Albany County as of next year.
County Legislators voted 33-5 to adopt Local Law H of 2020 on Monday, Sept. 14, prohibiting the use and sale of sparkling devices defined as ground-based fireworks. It includes cylindrical or cone fountains and wooden sparkler/dipped sticks.
The local law repeals a local law adopted in 2016 following the legalization of fireworks in New York state.
“When we adopted the local law in 2016 we were under the impression that sparkling devices would be the small hand-held sparklers, but what we got was much worse. There are fireworks exploding in the street, creating sounds that remind me of the mortar rounds that kept me awake while I served in Iraq. It’s unacceptable,” Chairman Andrew Joyce said. “I admit that I made a mistake voting for legal sparklers in 2016 and opting out of the legislation is a good first start in keeping our communities quiet and safe.”
Co-sponsors Sean Ward and Bill Ricard listed child safety and PTSD as reasons behind the about-face. Ward cited from two recent reports from the NYS Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission that found 31 percent of firework injuries come from sparklers. What Ward found to be “unacceptable” was the 7 percent of those injured being under 5 years old.
“Albany County residents will be given another tool in the shed that will hopefully keep our neighborhoods quiet and safe,” Ricard said. “While at the same time it will help to alleviate the safety hazards associated with the use of these fireworks upon children, along with the PTSD side effects inflicted upon pets and veterans.”
The City of Albany and Albany Police Department received 895 calls for fireworks this year, an increase of over 300 percent compared to last year. In addition, APD has had to respond to calls from residents who have mistaken sparkling devices and fireworks for gunshots.
“Since 2016, the notable rise in the use of illegal fireworks and misuse of legal sparkler devices across the county has devalued the quality of life for residents in populated areas subjected throughout the summer months by their use. As fireworks laws differ from the state down to local municipalities, and with law enforcement finding it more difficult to differentiate legal from illegal devices, the crackdown on the use of illegal fireworks starts with a ban of all for safer and healthier neighborhoods for our residents,” Co-Sponsor Raymond Joyce said.
Any person who uses a sparkling device can be issued a fine up to $500 and any individual who sells or furnishes a sparkling device to another person can be charged with a misdemeanor, punishable with a fine of $1,000 and 15 days in jail.
Following the vote, the legislation moves to the County Executive for review and approval.
“I am thankful that the legislature has acted swiftly in responding to concerns from local leaders, law enforcement, neighborhood groups and those who suffer from PTSD by making all fireworks illegal in Albany County,” Sponsor Matthew Peter said. “While this won’t solve all problems or concerns with fireworks in Albany County, it is an important first step. I’m grateful for the support of Chairman Joyce, my fellow co-sponsors and colleagues in the County Legislature for supporting Local Law H.”
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.
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