By Mark Hallum
The Fourth of July weekend brought a number of summons for illegal fireworks violations in Bayside, according to the 111th Precinct. This account, however, was not consistent with claims from one resident who said local law enforcement was reluctant put a stop to displays in the neighborhood.
Mandingo Tshaka, a longtime Bayside activist and former member of Community Board 11, voiced complaints about noise pollution and the possible fire hazard posed by the displays. He said this year’s 4th of July celebration found people shooting off fireworks in the streets and in playgrounds where he worries children could be hurt and houses could be set ablaze.
It was not the first time he has spoken out against weak enforcement of fireworks laws. In July 2015, Tshaka wrote a letter to the TimesLedger about the same issue and criticizing the police response.
“On the night of July 4, I went out on my motorized wheelchair, wanting to see who was involved in setting off the explosive devices that can kill or maim,” Tshaka wrote. “To my surprise, I did come across a patrol car by the Community Baptist Church here in Bayside, while a block away it sounded like a war zone. Two officers were just sitting in the car claiming they were protecting the church. Who was protecting the citizens?”
Community Affairs at the 111th Precinct did not give specifics on the number of people who had been issued with summons notices for illicit fireworks displays over the July Fourth weekend this year, but an officer said the law was upheld in a several cases.
State law signed into effect in 2015 allows for the private purchase of sparklers and other firecrackers which do not shoot upward. This law restricts fireworks from being purchased or ignited within New York City limits, while the sale to individuals under the age of 18 is not allowed.
“We need police reinstated in the area,” said Tshaka , who wants officers walking the beat on the Fourth of July weekend instead of patrolling from squad cars.
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said Whitestone is also a trouble area for illegal firecracker displays, and this year was the worst he had experienced.
But he pointed out that the inability of the police to take action lies in the fact that precincts in the outer boroughs lose personnel to the major fireworks shows in Manhattan, and as a result lose the manpower to effectively remove widespread violations from their own neighborhoods, Avella said.
“I’m sure Mandingo was right in terms of how bad it was in his neighborhood,” Avella said. “It’s a hard thing for them. There isn’t enough police to investigate these things. All they can do is move around and discourage it from happening.”
Avella compared the extent of illegal fireworks displays in his area to that of a war zone.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall