Last updated: July 2, 2018
If you’re like most New Yorkers you love watching fireworks on the Fourth of July — from Macy’s spectacular bursts over the East River to the dazzling displays on Coney Island and throughout the state. While some counties outside of New York City allow individuals to celebrate Independence Day with their own sparklers, nowhere in New York State are you allowed to set off airborne fireworks. With New York’s strict firework laws created to support public and personal safety initiatives, if you live in New York, it may be best to leave to firework shows to the pros.
This may be common-sense advice but, unfortunately, every year people still ignore firework laws and safety guidelines and then suffer the consequences. In fact, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, every year more than 8,500 people end up in hospital emergency rooms with fireworks-related injuries – the majority of which are burn injuries on the face, eyes, ears, hands, fingers, and legs. Another sobering fact, more than half of the fireworks-related injuries involve children and young adults under the age of 20.
When thinking about firework safety many New Yorkers may recall Jason Pierre-Paul’s incident, the former New York Giants defensive star who had to have multiple fingers amputated after an explosion while he was trying to light a fireworks stick at a Fourth of July family cookout. Fireworks are beautiful but dangerous. An unplanned trip to the emergency room or worse can wreck any holiday. Respecting firework laws and the dangers they were written to avoid is the best way to have a safe celebration with memories that will last a lifetime.
If you’re planning to celebrate this Fourth of July with family and friends, understanding these New York firework laws will make sure you’re freedom festivities go according to plan.
New York State Firework Laws
New York State is stricter than some other states when it comes to banning fireworks. It is illegal to buy or set off any of the following anywhere in the state unless you have a permit — firecrackers, bottle rockets, roman candles, spinners, and any other type of firework that goes up in the air. In some (but not all) New York counties, however, it is legal to buy and set off sparklers, but even then there are restrictions.
Are Fireworks Legal In NYC?
New York City has extremely strict laws against fireworks use. It is illegal to use, buy, sell, or transport any consumer fireworks in NYC. This includes sparklers, which are just as illegal in New York City as the larger fireworks. There are large consequences for being caught with illegal fireworks in New York City, in fact, the police can even seize vehicles used to transport fireworks. If you’re celebrating the Fourth in New York City, don’t even think about trying to have your own private fireworks show, attending one of the many spectacular shows put on by the licensed pros is your best bet.
Counties Near New York City That Allow Select Fireworks
Some New York State counties outside of New York City do allow people to use sparklers, thanks to a fairly new state law passed in 2014. Most of those counties are upstate. The counties closest to New York City are Rockland, Putnam, Orange, Dutchess, Sullivan, and Ulster.
Sparklers must be hand-held or mounted on a base or stick and cannot contain more than 500 grams of pyrotechnic material. The law defines sparklers as devices that produce colored sparks or a colored flame, make a whistling or crackling noise, and give off smoke; that means sparklers on wooden (not metal) sticks, cylindrical and cone-shaped sparkling fountains, snakes, party poppers filled with confetti, snappers wrapped in paper, and smoking devices.
Even if you are in a county that allows people to set off sparklers, and even if your sparklers meet the legal definition, there are still important restrictions on their use, including the following:
- How old do you have to be to buy fireworks in New York?
Only people who are over the age of 18 are allowed to set off — or even hold — the sparklers. So make sure you don’t let your underage kids hold a sparkler, even for a moment.
- Purchasing Sparklers
Sparklers can only be sold for the Fourth of July holiday during specified times — from July 1 to July 5 at permanent stores that are state-certified and from June 20 to July 5 at temporary tents or stands.
- Are Sparklers Legal In NYC?
No. You cannot set off sparklers in any county (including anywhere in New York City) where sparklers are illegal, even if you bought them in a county where their sale and use is permitted.
How to Report Illegal Fireworks in New York City
If you see something, say something, as the expression goes. The city is committed to stopping the illegal sale and use of fireworks and law enforcement are relying on people throughout the city to report any illegal fireworks activities they see. Reporting is easy, and you could help prevent firework injuries. You might even receive a reward. The city is offering up to $1,000 for tips that lead to the arrest and conviction of people selling, storing, or transporting fireworks.
If you know that large amounts of fireworks are being stored, or if the sale or use of fireworks is in progress, call 911.
If you know of past or chronic fireworks sale or use, or if you have any tips, call 311.