Volume 20 Issue 7 | June 29 - July 5, 2007

Downtown Express photo by Lorenzo Ciniglio

Fireworks display last weekend near Battery Park City.

Some Downtowners raise fireworks over fireworks

By Joe Orovic

The first bang of fireworks can kick off a spectacle for some while also sending startled people ducking for cover – as has been the case in Downtown. Some members of Community Board 1 are upset about routine nights interrupted by sudden, poorly regulated and arbitrary fireworks displays.

“Ever seen pictures of gophers popping their heads out of the ground to see what’s going on? That’s the reaction to the first bang,” said Pat Moore, chairperson of C.B.1’s Quality of Life Committee. “You don’t know it will be fireworks until the next couple of pops and boom.”

“It scares people out of their skin,” said Linda Belfer, chairperson of the board’s Battery Park City Committee, adding that Downtowners are still sensitive to sudden explosions because of 9/11.

Sponsors like Deutsche Bank and Target request permits for the shows, then hire out fireworks companies to put the shows together. Noah Pfefferblit, C.B. 1’s district manager who handles the fireworks duties of the board, said the F.D.N.Y. has ultimate say over the dealing of permits for the shows and the city collects the money. “Their revenue outweighs our objections to the shows,” he said. A Fire Dept. spokesperson did not comment on exactly how much the city collects for the permits.

The F.D.N.Y. and Coast Guard are supposed to oversee fireworks displays to make sure all safety regulations are adhered to. Firefighters provide general oversight and transport help while the Coast Guard is supposed to make sure barges stay the required 1,000 feet offshore. But Belfer expressed doubt they’re doing as good a job as they could and Moore was also skeptical.

“There needs to be strict enforcement of the rules,” said Moore.

James Long, F.D.N.Y. spokesperson, said the department strictly enforces all regulations and makes sure all explosives are properly transported.

Part of the problem, residents say, is the random nature of the displays. Of the ten shows that were scheduled to date, only one has been on a holiday – Earth Day on April 22. “You look at the calendar and you wonder, ‘What the hell is today?’” said Belfer.

Pfefferblit sends out a mass email of updated firework times and dates, or cancellations, to any resident that asks for it. Only two major shows remain – the July 4 spectacular, which can be viewed from the South Street Seaport, and another on July 21 right off of Battery Park. He encourages anyone who would like to join the mailing list to send an email to But a better early warning system isn’t all Belfer and Moore would like.

Shows have also been known to run overtime, into hours that may keep residents and their children awake. So far, three of the shows have started at 10:30 p.m. The C.B. 1 members think no show should be allowed to run after 10 p.m. Most of all, they are looking for more understanding from all parties involved.

Philip Butler, a producer for fireworks company Grucci, which turns out a vast majority of the fireworks displays in New York harbor, says his company “keeps the concerns of the community in mind.” Understanding the connection to 9/11, Grucci doesn’t use “salutes” in Lower Manhattan the fireworks that produce a bone rattling explosion. “All color and no loud noise,” he said, adding that Grucci was unaware of any community complaints about the fireworks.

Moore and Belfer adamantly professed a love for the pyrotechnic shows. “We don’t want to ban the fireworks,” said Moore. “We’re just looking for a bit more sensitivity towards the members of the community.”

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