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McCoy Expected To Sign Albany County Legislature’s Fireworks Rollback

Albany County Legislature Chair Andrew Joyce holding a package of fireworks you can purchase at the grocery store.
WAMC photo by Jackie Orchard
Albany County Legislature Chair Andrew Joyce holding a package of fireworks that could be purchased at the grocery store.

Reversing a 2016 move, the Albany County Legislature has voted to ban the use and sale of fireworks.

Monday night's 33 to 5 vote repealed a local law adopted in 2016 following the previous year's legalization of fireworks in New York.

In May of this year, the city began experiencing nightly pops, booms and dazzling fireworks displays. Albany wasn't alone: the scenario, fueled by the pandemic, was playing out across the Northeast.

The Albany Police Department said it received 895 calls for fireworks from sleepless residents, an increase of more than 300 percent compared to last year.

Albany's fireworks problem has a history: In 2017 Mayor Kathy Sheehan and city officials held a press conference just before the July 4th holiday to go over guidelines for legal fireworks. The mayor suggested revelers follow this rule-of-thumb: "Anything that shoots up in the air is not legal. Anything that creates a big boom is not legal."

The fireworks continued anyway and some law enforcement authorities believed this year's cancelation of the Empire State Plaza display compounded the problem.

Republican Albany County Legislature Minority Leader Frank Mauriello said he fireworks issue was a difficult vote for him.

"While I do enjoy lighting off fireworks with my family, and we're very safe doing it, unfortunately a number of people have abused the privilege. And with both the Chief of Police in Colonie and the Albany County Sheriff asking, being in support of rescinding the law, I thought it was best that we do that at this point in time."

In June, Legislature Chairman Andrew Joyce, a Democrat, admitted he made a mistake when he voted to legalize sparklers in Albany. He said the law was intended to cover small, hand-held sticks, that the original legislation led to confusion about which type of fireworks were legal. Turns out the definition of "ground based sparklers" encompasses more than those little firesticks children like to twirl around. Hence, a change in the law...

"Just to kind of walk back what we did before. I know this is going to make a difference where this has been a problem, because when neighbors hear fireworks going off, they're going to know that they're illegal and they're not the item you can buy in the store. It's gonna help us, help law enforcement identify what's illegal and help us address these quality of life issues and noise that we've experienced in our communities."

Under the measure, any person who uses a sparkling device can be fined $500 and any individual who sells fireworks can be charged with a misdemeanor, fined $1,000 and ordered to serve 15 days in jail.

The legislation now goes to Democratic County Executive Dan McCoy for review. McCoy issued a statement in response to a request for comment:

“I applaud the legislature for its action on this. I do intend to sign."

The law would become effective in January.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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