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Sparks fly over fireworks in Franklin Square

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When Angelica Cerniglia has returned to her Franklin Square home from work over the past few weeks, she has had to sit under a desk, hold her dog and play loud music to drown out the noise of constant fireworks.

“Just when I think they’re over and my dog is in the clear,” she said, “another one starts to pop off.”

She is just one of many Franklin Square residents who have posted about the nightly use of fireworks on social media. Vera Contreras, who lives between Dogwood Avenue and Semton Boulevard, said her children confuse the sounds with gunshots, and Coleen Giaconelli, who lives near the Malverne border, said her dog has had two seizures since the nightly fireworks displays began.

“I totally attribute it to the fireworks, they make him crazy,” Giaconelli said, adding, “This isn’t exclusive to Franklin Square. I have friends on Facebook from the Bronx, Yonkers, Connecticut and further, all complaining about the fireworks as well.”

The Nassau County Police Department has received over 1,270 calls about illegal fireworks over the past few weeks, a 400 percent increase in calls over the same time period last year, Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder and County Executive Laura Curran announced at a news conference on June 25. 

“You can’t sit outside in your front yard or your backyard without hearing them,” Ryder said, attributing the increase in illegal fireworks cases to people wanting to get outside after spending months in quarantine.

He also vowed to investigate the calls, and said, “If you want to spend a night in county jail, go ahead and set off those fireworks.”

Under New York State law, only a licensed pyrotechnician is allowed to put on a fireworks display, and he or she must apply for a permit at least five days before a planned fireworks show, and in the Town of Hempstead, displays can only be held between the hours of 9 p.m. and 11 p.m., except on Sundays, when displays could be held between the hours of 2 p.m. and 11 p.m. Violations are punishable by a fine of at most $500 or imprisonment for a period not to exceed three months.

Nassau County officials further enacted a law in 2018 outlawing the use of sparklers. Under the law, anyone who uses a sparkling device, or causes one to go off, would be guilty of a violation punishable by another $500 fine, and anyone who sells them would be guilty of a misdemeanor and would face 15 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. 

In the resolution to establish the law, officials stated that sparkling devices “cause a majority of all fireworks injuries suffered by children under the age of 5 years old.”

At the news conference, firefighters also demonstrated how dangerous fireworks could be. They put a firecracker inside an apple, which smoked, an M-80 firecracker in a watermelon, which exploded, and more fireworks in a child’s backpack, which also exploded. Additionally, the firefighters demonstrated how a sparkler could set fire to clothes, and noted that 35 percent of all firework-related injuries arise from children under the age of 15 playing with sparkling devices.

“If your kids are carrying one of these in the street, they’re going to kill someone,” Ryder said.

Curran also noted that random fireworks could be psychologically damaging for people suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Roughly 12 percent of Gulf War veterans experience PTSD, she said, as do 15 percent of Vietnam War veterans and 20 percent of those who fought in the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan. 

And in animals, Nassau County SPCA Board President Gary Rogers said, the fireworks set off a fight-or-flight response. “Fireworks hurt animals,” he said, “and they hurt people too.”

But not everyone in Franklin Square is upset about the nightly fireworks displays. Mario Scirica said he is more concerned about children riding bicycles on Hempstead Turnpike, the high rate of speed people drive at, and school taxes. “At this time in my life, I don’t buy them or light them,” he said of the fireworks, “but I was a kid once, and all of the ‘kid’ stuff that goes on in this town, this doesn’t bother me.”

He added that he understands why some people are upset by the fireworks, but noted that Franklin Square is densely populated, with a lot of children “who do this stuff.”

“Regardless of what gets posted on Facebook, or how many times people call the cops, this will never stop,” Scirica said. 

To report the use of illegal fireworks, call 911, and to report people illegally selling fireworks, email FireworksSales@nassaucountyny.gov.