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Illegal Fireworks Plaguing Queens Neighborhoods, Going Off at All Hours of the Night

Fireworks packaging left over from Monday night at Hunters Point (Photo provided by Mark Christie)

June 23, 2020, By Michael Dorgan 

Western Queens residents have been subject to a barrage of illegal fireworks in recent weeks that are being set off at all hours of the day and night.

Residents who live near the Long Island City waterfront or by Astoria Park say they are being kept awake by the noise and that it is affecting their quality of life. Residents in other parts of Queens are also grumbling about it.

Complaints about the illegal fireworks are coming into the 311 system at a rapid rate.

There have been 1,368 complaints filed with 311 by residents throughout Queens from June 1 to June 21, according to official 311 data. There were just 27 fireworks complaints in the borough for the same period last year.

There have been 136 complaints from the combined Astoria zip codes of 11102, 11106 and 11105 for the period.

Other zip codes where the number of complaints have spiked are in Far Rockaway, where the 11691 zip code clocked 100 complaints, followed by the greater Ridgewood and Glendale areas where 99 complaints were lodged for the 11385 zip code during the period.

Residents in Long Island City have also made plenty of complaints.

There were 49 complaints lodged by residents of the Long Island City zip code of 11101 over the three week period, while residents in the tiny strip that makes up the 11109 zip code accounted for a whopping 42 complaints over that same time frame.

The 11109 area covers about a quarter of a mile along Center Boulevard by Gantry Plaza State Park.

Zip Code 11101 is bound by the red line, excluding tiny area bound by gray on the Hunters Point waterfront that is Zip Code 11109 (Google)

Both the 11101 and 11109 zip codes cover Long Island City’s waterfront parks, which have become a hotspot for anti-social behavior this summer. There have been several reports of drag racing, excess litter, and other noisy activities taking place.

The fireworks disturbances in the area have been relentless over the last few weeks, according to Mark Christie, a local resident and the vice president of Hunters Point Parks Conservancy.

Christie said he is finding it difficult to sleep due to the crackling sounds made by the fireworks. He said his lack of sleep in recent days is starting to affect his ability to do his job.

“I can’t sleep because I am getting headaches from the noise and I feel drowsy during work,” he said.

For instance, on Sunday and Monday night, the fireworks started just before 10 p.m. and lasted until about 4 a.m., he said.

Christie said the situation has become so dire that families are talking about moving away from the area.

“There are lots of children in these buildings and families can’t do this anymore,” he said.

Christie, a founding member of HPPC, said that the parks are being destroyed by the damage caused by fireworks being set off.

“Around $200 million was spent on the parks and it’s going down the drain,” Christie said.

The fireworks are burning the grass and damaging the wood on the boardwalk, he said.

Burned grass at Hunters Point (Photo provided by Mark Christie)

“What they are doing is highly dangerous because the wood could easily go on fire and spread,” he said.

Christie said he went down to the waterfront Monday and found four separate sites where the fireworks were set off.

Later in the evening, he witnessed individuals taking fireworks out of a car. He decided to call the police.

“They were not interested, they wouldn’t even take the car’s registration plate off me,” he said.

“The park is being destroyed and it is being ignored by the authorities, we feel totally abandoned,” he said.

Sunnyside residents have suffered weeks of similar disturbances from illegal fireworks going off in their neighborhood. The 11104 zip code has recorded 28 complaints from June 1 to June 21, according to the 311 data.

Some residents said they are fed up and have taken to social media to voice their concerns about the uptick in fireworks usage.

“Enough of these fireworks already, it is almost 2 a.m. for God’s sake!” one poster on the Sunnyside Together Facebook group page wrote Sunday morning following a heavy night of firework activity.

Sets of 10 to 15 fireworks were going off at a time and could be heard from the intersection of 48th Street and 43rd Avenue, she claimed.

A fellow group member, who lives on 42nd Street, between 43rd and Skillman Avenues, said she was woken from her sleep by fireworks on the same night.

“It made me jump off my bed. It was bad,” she said. “It was loud and lasted at least for a long minute.”

One poster likened the scenes of fireworks exploding on Saturday night to a war zone.

“I couldn’t tell if they were coming from the street or a rooftop because I could only see white explosions like a war zone,” he said.

“The ash from the fireworks also damaged some of my outdoor furniture,” he added.

Another poster in the group said the illegal activity could cause a serious incident in the neighborhood.

“It’s just a matter of time someone burns down a building, blows up a car, or torches their entire body,” she said.

On Tuesday the mayor announced the establishment of a multi-agency task force to crack down on illegal fireworks sales following the high levels of 311 complaints.

The task force will target the sale and distribution of large quantities of illegal fireworks, the mayor said.

The unit will consist of NYPD Intelligence Bureau officers, FDNY Fire Marshals and members of the Sheriff’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

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