UPDATE: At about 10:30 Friday morning, the city posted the following on its Facebook page: “The City of Kingston is pleased to announce the annual 4th of July Celebration and Fireworks are on! Join the City of Kingston and the Kingston Waterfront Business Association for a wonderful night filled with music, food, fun and of course – fireworks!” Details to follow.
Kingston’s Fourth of July fireworks attract thousands to the city’s waterfront, but a decision by the state Department of Transportation to deny the city a permit for shooting them off the Route 9W bridge, contrary to the practice for many years, has raised the possibility that they may not happen at all.
With less than a month until July 4, Mainetti, Mainetti & O’Connor, the Kingston-based personal injury law firm that pays for the fireworks and signs the contract with the supplier, and the Waterfront Business Association are scrambling to find another location. The Waterfront Business Association consists of the restaurants and other businesses on lower Broadway and the Strand and pays for the portapotties, entertainment and other aspects of the city’s Independence Day festival.
Among the alternative locations being considered are a barge that would float in the creek, Island Dock and the property across the creek in Sleightsburgh formerly occupied by the Kosco oil docks, according to Alex Mainetti, an associate at the firm. None of those alternative locations have yet been approved by the DOT – the organizers and the city are hoping to meet with the department by the end of this week – and Mainetti said there are other challenges: “We ran these ideas by the fireworks company and they said for the size of the show we want to do we’ll need more space … Island Dock may not be big enough. [The supplier] likes a flat space with no trees. Even the city’s fire chief said the Route 9W bridge was the ideal spot.”
One problem with the Sleightsburgh location is that the property is owned by a subsidiary of Citgo, which makes it difficult to get permission and the insurance waivers in such a short period of time. The barge remains a possibility although it would be an added expense — and DOT hasn’t yet indicated the location would be approved.
According to City Clerk Carly Winne, the city did not learn about DOT’s decision until mid-May, when Mayor Steve Noble received a letter from the DOT stating the department wouldn’t allow the permit. Noble, said Winne, “immediately forwarded the letter to the Waterfront Business Association … we’re trying to resolve the issue by finding another spot and simultaneously working with DOT to see what happened [with the 9W bridge] and what will work.”
Placing the explosives on the bridge adjacent to passing traffic “is a significant safety issue,” said Gina DiSarro, public information officer for the DOT’s Hudson Valley Region office. “If a car were to hit the explosives and they went off, there could be significant damage to the DOT infrastructure.” Given those concerns, DiSarro did not explain why the DOT issued the permit in the past.
Mainetti said the DOT decision was frustrating, since “they didn’t cite any specific statues or violations and specify how we could comply with this. We’re urging the city to do that and also [Assemblyman] Kevin Cahill’s office, which reached out to DOT to try to work this out” but without success, he said.
Couldn’t the bridge be closed down while the fireworks were being set up? “They’re saying they can’t shut the bridge down for the necessary time for the set up because it takes hours,” Mainetti said. Diverting the traffic to the adjacent Wurts Street Bridge and over the Eddyville Bridge, which only has one lane open due to construction, was deemed by DOT not a viable solution, he said.
“Part of the reason we do this is to help bring people down to the Strand and fuel the restaurants’ business,” said Mainetti. “It seems odd that all of a sudden the DOT is saying no. We requested the mayor to make a further inquiry as to which provisions or statues were in violation, but all DOT says is that it’s dangerous.
“There is a chance [the fireworks] won’t happen if we can’t get a location. But the chances are still strong it will happen.”