FEBRUARY 2003

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Chinatown May Welcome The Year Of The Goat With Fireworks
From Singtao Chinese Daily
January18, 2003

"One crack gets rid of the old year" in Chinatown goes the saying that may hold true this Lunar New Year. There is a chance that the sound of firecrackers will be heard once again on every street corner on the day of celebration.

In preparation for this year's festivities, the Chinese Community Center (CCC) has vigorously taken up the struggle for permission from the city to set off fireworks, just as it did last year. Although Mayor Bloomberg gave verbal approval some time ago, official documents from the Police and Fire departments are still needed.

[The Bloomberg administration announced on January 28 that it would reverse the ban on firecrackers for Chinese New Year's Day and would issue permits for "pyrotechnic displays." Personal use of firecrackers will still not be allowed (New York Times)]

Members of the center's New Year Celebration Committee reported that in negotiations with the city, the detail of who is to discharge the fireworks has already been worked out; the center has agreed to spend a few thousand dollars to hire a professional. In addition, it will also contribute $500 toward the stationing of an ambulance and $500 toward the stationing of a fire engine on Chinese New Year's Day.

From this development, it is apparent that the city's "zero tolerance" police officers are friendlier than they were in the past, and that many are approachable. Though the Fire Department has misgivings about safety and the like, after preliminary talks with the Chinese Community Center each side understands the other's needs a bit more than before. The center expects to hear a decision from the city by next week. If official approval is granted, fireworks will be part of this year's festivities.

The Police Department's strictly enforced ban on fireworks was instituted eight to nine years ago during Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's time in office as a measure to prevent the fires and accidents that invariably occurred during the Chinese New Year celebration. Thus, it has been a long time since a single cracker has been heard in the streets of Chinatown.

To appeal to nostalgia in the years following the decree, merchants would hang strings of paper "firecrackers" before their storefronts, which, though pleasant, could never replace the loud, welcome crackling of real firecrackers. Even though the center was permitted to set off fireworks the year before last in Columbus Park, the resounding booms and the fluttering red paper were not enough to satisfy the yearning in the hearts of all in the community. That is why the center persisted in the fight to get firecrackers for this Lunar New Year.

Translated From Chinese By Kelvin Wu

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