New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has set his sights on the staggering surge in fireworks use in the wake of a startling video that has circulated showing a group of men aiming and shooting one at a person sleeping on the sidewalk in Harlem.
A video that made the rounds on Monday shows one man tossing the lit fireworks in the direction of a sleeping homeless person earlier that day. The attacker is then seen running away as voices can be heard in the background.
A small flame grows into a fireworks burst as the man flees from the person sleeping on the pavement, who appears motionless.
New York Police Department’s Chief of Detectives, Rodney Harrison, said in a Tuesday morning tweet the victim was a homeless man who suffered burns to his back. His attackers were still on the loose as of 7 a.m.
“The inhumanity of this crime is shocking to everyone who watches,” NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan wrote in his own tweet on Tuesday morning. “The NYPD WILL apprehend those responsible for using fireworks to assault our fellow New Yorker in #Harlem yesterday.”
The increased use of fireworks is nothing new in recent days in New York City. Fireworks complaints made with the city’s 311 hotline skyrocketed to 6,385 between June 1 and June 19– 236 times the 27 received during the same period in 2019, Gothamist reported.
Juneteenth saw the highest number of complaints in a single day, with 1,689. The day before 1,221 complaints were made, while on June 17 saw 983 complaints made, the outlet reported.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and City Council Member Robert E. Cornegy, Jr told media on Sunday they believed people should not call 911 or 311, and should instead try other options.
“This is a nonviolent act, so those three numbers that we always dial – 911 – get over that,” Adams, a former member of the NYPD, said during the press conference, according to an account by WCBS880. “We have left the place of 911 being the response for everything in our city.”
After nights of fireworks complaints, hundreds of people reportedly drove to de Blasio’s home, Gracie Mansion, on Monday night to honk in protest of his alleged lack of action against firework deployment, according to social media.
That same night, de Blasio told Spectrum NY1 he has asked city agencies to concoct a plan for how to address the issue, which he admitted he initially thought was an isolated problem.
“It is a much earlier, much bigger run-up to July 4. I do think July 4 is the nexus still, but it’s unlike anything we’ve ever see before,” de Blasio told the outlet. “I’m very worried about it … Besides the fact that it’s a nuisance and quality of life problem, I’m really worried that some kid’s going to get hurt or someone’s going to set something on fire accidentally.”
The mayor is expected to speak further on the issue during his Tuesday morning press conference.
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