July 04, 2007

Echos of Fireworks in Bay Ridge

I just came from the Sunnydale Farms deli on 68th Street and Third Avenue, and saw something that you just don't see anymore.

A cluster of ten kids outside one of the apartment houses on 68th was lighting firecrackers and throwing them into the street. I walked through a heavy gunpowder cloud as I approached the store.

As I emerged from the store, an NYPD squad car was parked at an angle on the corner. A male and female cop were about to get in the faces of the culprits, much to the chagrin of some men in front of the Three Jolly Pigeons pub, who yelled across the street "Its the Fourth of July for Gods sake"

Back when I was a kid, Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst was fireworks central. I was a fireworks maniac, as were many of my friends. Many of the fathers in the area loved fireworks also, and would put up huge displays in front of their houses.

Some kids would finance their drug habit by selling drugs. I financed my fireworks habit by re-selling fireworks.

My connection was Italian guys up in Bensonhurst. We'd ride our bikes up to Stacy Car Service on Bath Avenue and 16th Avenue. There were always guys hanging around who could get you what you wanted. The fireworks were kept behind someone's house, in the garage.

A "mat" of fireworks consisted of 80 "packs", and would cost you $4. We could sell the individual packs for ten cents each. And it was not that hard to sell them. Capitalism at its finest.

We soon grew out of lighting packs. We needed bigger fixes and got them by igniting an entire mat at a time. An excellent method was to throw it in a burning trash can.

Another fine way of upping the ante was to set off cherry bombs or "ashcans", or the dreaded "blockbusters" which were said to have the power of a quarter of a stick of dynamite. I never used blockbusters --every juvenile delinquent has his limits --but God did I love the cherry bombs. They made a most superb echo when detonated down the exit stairways of the Bay Ridge Avenue or 77th Street subway stations.

Never was into rockets that much. I never really got the point of "jap rockets". Whistling jupiters, Roman Candles, chasers, they were all fine, but I only got excited by the big boomers.

Wnen Rudy Giuliani was mayor, he decided that he was going to put an end to the illegal use of fireworks. And amazingly he did just that. It took him a couple of years, but he put an end to it. Nowhere was this felt more than in Bay Ridge.

Which is a good thing--I am sure that this has saved hundreds of children and adults from injury.

But, while I applaud the NYPD for vigorously enforcing the law, you'll pardon me if a little part of me was entirely in sympathy with the kids in front of the apartment house by Sunnydale's.

Happy July 4, everybody.

Cherry Bomb definition ( from wikipedia )
Cherry bomb fireworks are exploding fireworks, usually round, approximately one inch (2.5 cm) in diameter, and coloured red with a green fuse. They contain a core made of explosive flash powder, a layer of sawdust, and a coating of sodium silicate. They are powerful enough to cause very serious injury. Historically, the cherry bomb contained approximately 3/4 gram of a chlorate/sulfur/aluminum flash powder (a notoriously dangerous formulation) making it substantially less powerful than most other large firecrackers like the M-80 and silver salute.

Cherry bombs are considered illegal explosive devices in the United States[1].

Blockbuster definition ( from wikipedia )
he Block Buster is an illegal firecracker of large size measuring either 2.25" x 1.25" or 2.5" x 1". It houses approx. 20-25 grams of flash powder making it around 250 times more powerful than a legal firecracker. These fireworks are no longer legally produced, and possessing these can result in either heavy fines, jail time, or both. They are extremely dangerous as they are usually home made and there is no quality control on these fireworks.


Chris Kreussling (Flatbush Gardener) said...

This stirred up an old memory for me. I linked back to this post, but my story is no comment on what you wrote. I enjoyed reading about your experiences.

Keith said...

When I lived in Bay Ridge (1975-1980, my PS 102 years), we kids used to go buy fireworks on the sly from a guy in the neighborhood. He kept 'em under the counter in some store (I can't recall where) and - I swear - the guy only had one arm. I never asked and he wasn't tellin', but if the shocking lack of a limb on this guy didn't dissuade us from buying fireworks, nothing was gonna.

I remember watching the bicentennial fireworks display over the skyline/Statue of Liberty from my mom's bedroom window on 71st St. & Ridge Blvd...

The Phantom said...

I think I may know that guy with one arm--his name was Gerard...probably from a candy store he ran on Fourth Avenue between 69th and Ovington

He was a great neighborhood character. I think he could play softball ( outfield ) just fine even with the handicap.

The Phantom said...

Oh, and do not think the lack of the arm had anything to do with fireworks

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, Gerard and his candy store. Fireworks were not all he sold under the counter. He had a steady supply of under-the-counter goods, obtained by all means possible with the help of his loyal band of which "Little Louie" was a nimble and well known member. I think that candy store has been replaced by an insurance office.