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Fireworks

Photo by David Ackerman

The showers of sparks that rained down on our heads the night of Fourth of July were inspiring — grandiose and touching all at once. Fireworks and Independence Day go together like old friends, a tradition that touches the heart. Long Island is home to many of these shows, from the Bald Hill spectacle to the fireworks set off on the West Beach in Port Jefferson.

Then there are the smaller shows, the ones put on by the local neighborhoods in the cool of night. While the grand displays of the professional shows are like standing in the majesty under the lights of Times Square, the small community shows are more like candles set along the mantle in a dark room. Both can be spectacular in their own ways.

Though of course, one is done by amateurs, often in illegal circumstances. And even after the festivities, fireworks continue to light up the sky despite its danger and how it may impact the surrounding community.

Unlike other New York counties, Suffolk County has bans on sparklers, along with firecrackers, bottle rockets, Roman candles, spinners and aerial devices. The Suffolk County Fire Marshals beg people to put down their own fireworks and attend one of the professionally manned shows.

And it seems they have had good reasons, both past and present, to press people for caution. Two women from Port Jefferson Station were injured with fireworks the night of July Fourth when one ended up in their backyard. While other media outlets reported only light injuries, in fact their injuries were much more severe, and readers will read that story in the coming week’s issue.

But of course, the injuries don’t just happen here on the North Shore. A 2018 report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission shows that in 2017, fireworks were involved in an estimated 12,900 injuries. Children under the age of 15 accounted for 36 percent of these injuries. Sparklers accounted for an estimated 1,200 emergency department-treated injuries.

And it’s not over yet. Even a week after July Fourth, fireworks continue to go up with sparks and bangs in the din of night.

Residents know to handle their pets scared by the booms of fireworks on Independence Day, but should they have to cower with their pets for days and days afterward?

And of course, that’s not even to mention U.S. veterans, many of whom know what they must do to stay safe if they are suffering from PTSD on July Fourth, but should they have to sequester themselves every day afterward for a week or more?

Sending up fireworks after July Fourth is inconsiderate, to say the least. We at TBR News Media beg people with excess fireworks to put them in packages or put them aside.

And next time July Fourth comes around, we urge caution when using these explosives. Nobody should have to find refuge from their neighbors on the day of the birth of this nation.

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The annual fireworks show went off in Port Jefferson for Independence Day. Costs for the show was $20,000, provided by Bellport-based Fireworks by Grucci.

Residents prepare July Fourth at-home firework shows in Port Jefferson Station. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

Every Fourth of July, if only for a few hours, Long Islanders create their own stars in the night sky.

If one drives down the side streets and residential neighborhoods late at night on America’s birthday, one can hear a chorus of whistles and pops from every direction. People in local neighborhoods sit in lawn chairs with their necks craned to the night sky to watch the lights flash high over their own roofs. All those involved know that, without a license, it’s illegal to own, sell and, especially, to light any fireworks in New York state, but this is Independence Day, and the date demands ceremony.

On one street in Port Jefferson Station, where locals hosted their own fireworks show, the air was suffused with a burning smoke that smelled like brimstone and burning paper. Fireworks enthusiast Louie, who agreed to comment if his last name would be withheld, along with his brother and their friends, laid out rows of mortars stretching more than 10 yards down the street. For close to two hours nonstop the fireworks illuminated the sky and onlookers cheered.

“Jones Beach does it, Bald Hill does it … why can’t we do it?” Louie said.

Louie said he has helped set off his block’s firework display for four years, and each July Fourth his group sets off more than $2,000 worth of fireworks.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) warned residents ahead of the holiday in a YouTube video that the county would be enacting a zero-tolerance policy for the possession, use and sale of illegal fireworks.

“We are here today to talk about the Fourth of July and how we all love to get together and celebrate,” Bellone said in the video. “We always hear about these incidents happening and they are unnecessary, preventable injuries.”

Residents prepare July Fourth at-home firework shows in Port Jefferson Station. Photo by Kyle Barr

Officials asked Suffolk residents to attend licensed firework shows going on all across the Island, rather than creating their own events. There were shows at Bald Hill, in Wading River, at Peconic Riverfront in Riverhead, on East Beach in Port Jefferson, on Shelter Island and at the Long Island Ducks stadium in Bethpage, to name a few.

Suffolk County is stricter on fireworks than other parts of the state. While New York passed a law in January that made owning sparklers legal, in Suffolk owning a sparkler remains a misdemeanor. Owning certain fireworks, like the M-80s, which were originally designed by the United States military to simulate gunfire, or the mortar-type of fireworks, is a Class E felony subject to up to four years in prison.

Several individuals were arrested this year and charged with crimes of possessing and selling fireworks. In June, a Medford man was arrested for having $100,000 worth of fireworks in a storage facility. Later that same month, an Oakdale man was arrested for bringing $2,000 worth of fireworks home from Pennsylvania and selling them online.

“We take it very seriously,” 4th Precinct Capt. Kevin Williams said at the June 1 Smithtown Town board meeting. “All fireworks are illegal, and that includes sparklers. Some of the larger fireworks that we see today, the M-80 fireworks or the mortars that people shoot up, those are designated as explosives under New York State Labor Law.”

The danger presented by misusing fireworks is real. Nationally, fireworks were identified in 12,900 hospital visits and eight deaths in 2017, according to a report by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission released in June this year.

Suffolk police reported that a man from Gordon Heights lost three of his fingers
after a firework exploded in his hand this year. Another woman, a Florida resident who was visiting her family in Mastic, was injured after she tossed a lit cigarette in an ashtray which caused a firework that had been placed there to explode. The detonation severed the tip of one finger and injured other fingers on her right hand. Both were sent to Stony Brook University Hospital for their injuries.

Dr. Steven Sandoval, medical director of Suffolk County Volunteer Firefighters Burn Center at Stony Brook University Hospital, said the last weeks of June and the first two weeks of July are the peak in terms of burn center patients. On average his unit receives five to 10 patients every Fourth of July season, and that’s not including those who arrive to the hospital with other, non-burn related injuries. By July 5 this year, the burn center received four patients who had injuries related to fireworks, but Sandoval said they would not know the total number of injuries until a month has passed.

“Every other year there’s a fatal or near-fatal event that occurs from fireworks,” Sandoval said. “This is a vulnerable population, who might already be intoxicated, inebriated or have been standing out in the sun all day … people should leave fireworks to the professionals.”

Those people setting off the pyrotechnic display in Port Jeff Station said they understood the hazard that fireworks presented.

“We’re all organized, not drunk, professional and we have order,” Louie said. “We have communication, and communication is key.”

Still, there is always danger when it comes to explosives. The street in Port Jeff Station was bordered by power lines and trees that an off-course rocket could potentially strike. One neighbor put large towels and cardboard boxes on her fence to mitigate any potential burn damage. After the grand finale, where the group let off their last rockets and mortars, they started to throw loud firecrackers into the street. One of them bounced into a neighbor’s yard right next to a fence. The firework exploded and dug a small hole an inch deep into the dirt.

Despite it all, the neighbors laughed and cheered anyway.

“Fireworks are a great way to celebrate the July 4th holiday and our independence, but be smart and stay safe.”

That’s what Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said when he joined with officials from the Suffolk County Police Department, Suffolk County Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services, and local fire chiefs to provide safety tips for residents ahead of the Fourth of July, as well as demonstrate the dangers of possessing and using fireworks. During the event, police officials showcased the dangers of fireworks by igniting a collection of pyrotechnics in a residential shed, a typical storage place for illegal fireworks.

The United State Consumer Protection Agency indicates that an average of 230 people in the United States visit the emergency room with fireworks-related injuries around the 4th of July holiday every year. In 2017, fireworks accounted for approximately 1,200 emergency department treated injuries associated with sparklers nationwide.

“We are here today to talk about the 4th of July and how we all love to get together and celebrate,” Bellone said. “We always hear about these incidents happening and they are unnecessary, preventable injuries.”

He urged parents to disallow children to use or ignite fireworks or sparklers. Suffolk County Legislator Rudy Sunderman (R-Mastic) put forward legislation to ban sparklers to ensure they are out of the hands of children.

“This is something I know was very important to the fire services here,” Bellone said of the legislation. “They did a tremendous job and I want to say kudos to them and thank them for their leadership on this issue. In addition to the great work of our fire departments, and fire rescue and emergency services personnel, Suffolk County will be exercising zero tolerance when it comes to the possession, use and sale of illegal fireworks.”

He urged residents to instead get out and see professional fireworks displays throughout the weekend.

“Celebrate our country’s independence and gather together with our families and our loved ones and our friends and have a great time as a country,” he said. “It’s a unifying day for our country. Sometimes we have these heated battles in our country and it’s easy to forget that we are one great country. The 4th of July is always a great time to celebrate that we are Americans and we’re proud of that.”

Some of the fireworks displays throughout Suffolk County:

  • Grucci fireworks at Bald Hill July 4 at 9:15 p.m.
  • Peconic Riverfront in Riverhead July 5 at 9:30 p.m.
  • Peconic Bay Medical Center festival July 6 at 6164 Route 25A in Wading River at 10 p.m.
  • Crescent Beach in Shelter Island July 7 at 9 p.m.
  • Post-game fireworks display at the Long island Ducks stadium July 7

File photo

Kenneth Pellegrino was arrested after drugs, fireworks and weapons were seized from his Sound Beach home, following a search warrant executed by Suffolk County Police.

During the May 3 search, $7,000 worth of fireworks, 110 grams of heroin worth about $26,000, 75 grams of crack/cocaine worth approximately $4,500, 33 grams of marijuana and more than $1,800 in cash were found. A shotgun, digital scales, cell phones and drug packaging material were also seized.

Pellegrino, 42, was charged with three counts of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, fifth-degree criminal possession of marijuana, unlawfully dealing in fireworks and unlawfully storing fireworks.

“This is part of our enhanced narcotics strategy where we are cracking down on drug dealing in our communities,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini said. “What’s important to note about this search warrant is that it began with calls to our 631-852-NARC line. We were able to get drugs off the street and a shotgun off the street that belonged to a drug dealer, and we were able to do that because of the assistance of the residents of Suffolk County.”

Pellegrino will be held overnight at the Seventh Precinct for arraignment at 1st District Court in Central Islip.

Port Jefferson’s 2016 Greek Festival kicked off Aug. 18 and has three remaining dates from Aug. 26 to Aug. 28. The annual cultural celebration is hosted by the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption at Port Jefferson and features food, activities, music, fireworks and more.

Above, Richard Boziwick smiles with his wife. Photo from Boziwick

One Northport man has helped bring the spark back into the village’s New Year’s Eve celebration.

Richard Boziwick, owner of R. P. Luce & Company Inc. on Scudder Avenue in Northport, helped Northport Harbor ring in the new year by organizing a fireworks show. He said the Centerport Yacht Club used to have an annual fireworks display that was suspended about seven years ago. He used to look forward to watching them from the Northport Yacht Club every year and wanted to bring that celebration back for everyone in Northport to experience.

“It was great to bring this back for the village,” Boziwick said in a phone interview. “It’s neat to have something on the off-season and I think it’s something we needed.”

Boziwick has lived in the village since 1983 and is known to be deeply active within the community. He first got involved with the community’s coveted annual Cow Harbor race in 1985 as a runner, became a volunteer soon after, and was eventually appointed director for the race. He has also spent years on the Northport Planning Board and now serves as chairman.

As director of the Cow Harbor race and chairman of the planning board, Boziwick said he has been able to develop relationships with countless people throughout the village.

“I am in positions that have high visibility within multiple municipalities, so I meet a lot of different people,” he said.

He has been a member of the Northport Yacht Club for the past 20 years and is the rear commodore there, so his reach expands to the nautical community. A rear commodore assists the commodore in his or her duties to maintain the yacht club.

Through these relationships, Boziwick was able to reach out and hear not only that other residents wanted the fireworks back, but that they were willing to contribute to the costs.

The event was almost entirely funded by Northport businesses and organizations. The three major contributors were Northport Yacht Club, Centerport Yacht Club and the Great Cow Harbor 10k. Other smaller community sponsors included Northport Copy, Tim’s Shipwreck Diner, the Northport Historical Society and Jones Drug Store.

Boziwick said this first year of fireworks was quite a success, with more than 500 people coming to view the fireworks in Northport while sipping on hot chocolate and eating cookies supplied by Tim’s Shipwreck Diner.

He said that plans have already been solidified for next year’s fireworks, which he hopes will expand the show in terms of the types of pyrotechnics.

“I just love fireworks and I think it’s unique to have them on New Year’s, since so many towns and villages usually have them on the Fourth of July,” he said. “It’s been great to bring this back to the village because, in the end, it’s got to be something for the village.”

He also said he feels this is a chance for the Cow Harbor race to give back to the community and say thanks for allowing them to use the village every year to host this race.

“This event is meant for the people of Northport and their friends,” he said.

Long Islanders enjoyed food, rides and games at the Greek Festival in Port Jefferson Station, an annual event hosted by the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption.

The festival ran from Aug. 20 to Aug. 23. Before finding their way to the food, rides and games, people who attended the four-day event could pick up raffle tickets for Sunday’s raffle drawing, buy toys and jewelry and other things from the vendors. Those who entered the drawing could win prizes like a car, various electronics and cash, among other prizes. Visitors could dance or watch a group of dancers perform several traditional Greek dances and many viewed the 30-minute fireworks display on two of the festival evenings before returning to their games and rides or going home for the night.

The Rythmos Hellenic Dance Group from the Greek Orthodox School in Port Jefferson Station performs at a previous Greek Festival. File photo

Now in its 40th year, the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption, 430 Sheep Pasture Rd., Port Jefferson Station, will hold its annual festival tonight, Aug. 20, from 5 to 10 p.m., Aug. 21 from 5 to 11 p.m., Aug. 22 from 1 to 11 p.m. and Aug. 23 from 1 to 10 p.m. Fireworks will be held on Aug. 21 and 22 at 9:30 p.m.

The event will feature carnival rides, face painting, games, live music by the band Aegean Connection, traditional Hellenic dance performances and culinary delights.

Authentic mouth-watering foods such as gyros, moussaka, tiropita, souvlaki and spanakopita will be served up, along with sweet desserts such as melomakarona, galaktoboureko, kourabiedes, koulourakia, baklava and loukoumades, a fried dough pastry favorite.

Guided tours of the church will be available throughout the day, and vendors will be offering Greek art, jewelry, souvenirs, icons and much more.

One of the main attractions at the festival is the over-the-top sweepstakes that the church holds. This year 315 prizes will be awarded. Prizes range from cars — a 2016 Mercedes Benz GLK 4Matic is first prize — to a 13-foot Boston Whaler 130 SS 40 HP, cash prizes, TVs, iPods, tablets, Mets tickets, gift cards and more. Tickets for the sweepstakes are $100 each, limited to 4,999 tickets — meaning that one out of 16 will win a prize. The drawing will be held on Aug. 23 beginning at 7 p.m.

Free shuttle buses will pick up festival attendees from Ward Melville High School, Earl L. Vandermeulen High School, Port Jefferson Ferry and the Long Island Rail Road station to transport them to festival grounds, making parking at this popular event a breeze. Admission to the festival is $2 per person, children under 12 free. For more information, call the church office at 631-473-0894 or visit www.portjeffgreekfest.com.

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Ketan Shah photo from SCPD

Police arrested three people they allege were illegally selling fireworks with names like Saturn Missiles, Splendid Flower, Big Bad Bucket, Anaconda and Tornado Alley.

According to the Suffolk County Police Department, officers working off an anonymous tip on Saturday afternoon found about 65 boxes of fireworks — both on display with price tags in front of the store and in the back room — at the Card Smart on Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station, just south of Route 347.

The officers arrested the store’s owner, 46-year-old Hicksville resident Ketan Shah, as well as employees Vijaykumar Patel, a 30-year-old Elmhurst resident, and Nancy Sapienza, 65, of Ridge, charging all of them with unlawfully dealing with fireworks, which is a Class A misdemeanor.

Police said the employees were issued field appearance tickets while Shah was arraigned on Sunday.

Shah’s lawyer, Riverhead-based Richard Pellegrino, declined to comment on the case Monday morning, saying he was still investigating the case.

Attorney information for Patel and Sapienza was not available.