Fireworks Back On: Restaino & Rulli Lead Charge in Saving Hyde Park Fireworks

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Efforts by private citizens spark vendor contributing entire $25,000 to city.


By: Nicholas D. D’Angelo

The Niagara Falls City Council ignited a firestorm of criticism after voting unanimously against spending $25,000 to fund the annual Fourth of July fireworks display during their meeting on Wednesday May 9th, 2018.

“If you talk to people who have businesses around there, if you talk to people who live around there, there are fights, there is littering and police action,” said Niagara Falls City Councilman Chris Voccio. “We just felt that considering the constraints that we have financially, the best bet would be to vote against it and that’s why it was unanimous.”


Councilman Chris Voccio


“The sense of the council was that in lieu of the crime, and in lieu of the budget, that it is smarter to cancel the fireworks seeing that we have a beautiful display by the Senecas,” added Niagara Falls City Councilman Ken Tompkins.

“It was a smart and sound fiscal move, and also one to mitigate, or take away, any of the trouble that was going on downtown. I stand by that move and I stand by my colleagues. We all voted the correct way.”


Councilman Ken Tompkins


Despite the City of Niagara Falls being in one of the toughest fiscal conditions in its history, citizens did not want to hear any of the excuses.

As one resident on social media said, “no festival of lights anymore, no fireworks display, higher water bills and ridiculous taxes….and the city wonders why people are leaving in ‘droves.’”

Similarly, another resident stated, “this is only the beginning. Our city is broke and it is not just the fault of the current council. They have a mess to deal with and it’s going to suck!”

There is no question that the fireworks at Hyde Park had become a tradition for many in the falls.

“I grew up on the 600 block of 30th street,” said Councilman Tompkins. “We could sit on our front porch or the roof and watch the fireworks. So I get the people wanting them to be downtown. I also just hope that people understand that it’s been kind of rough in recent years. Some of the youth like to spoil it.”

Instead of taking to social media with their concerns, two Niagara Falls residents – Robert Restaino and David Rulli – set out a plan to raise the money themselves.

Restaino, an attorney in Niagara County, told the Niagara Reporter that he was propelled to act for his granddaughter and the city that he loves.


Robert Restaino


“I can’t remember a Fourth of July without the city fireworks display,” said Restaino. “Not only have I always watched the fireworks at Hyde Park, but I am a new grandfather and my granddaughter is going to be six months old around that time. I thought it would be kind of crazy if her first Fourth of July was not spent at Hyde Park watching the fireworks display. So for me, it was a bit personal.”

David Rulli, who has operated Rulli Electric in Niagara Falls for thirty-five years, has lived on Linwood Avenue along Hyde Park for more than two decades.

“The fireworks,” said Rulli, “for me and for others, have been a tradition to celebrate our veterans. I just think it is a very important part of Niagara Falls.”

In just the short amount of time since the City Council meeting on May 9th, Restaino said that he had gotten “numerous phone calls” from business people reaching out wanting to help.

“It’s really a great feeling to know that there were so many people out there who felt as I do and that we should make sure the fireworks happen for the residents of Niagara Falls,” said Restaino.

On Monday, May 14th, the efforts of Restaino and Rulli paid off as a private donor, who has now been identified as KeyBank, was confirmed to have donated the entire $25,000 necessary to fund the fireworks.

In order for the fireworks to go off, the City Council will have to accept the $25,000 gift and then vote to become the “sponsor” so that police and fire would be covered.

Councilman Tompkins, however, does not see the city Council voting against such a plan.

“I don’t see anything being a roadblock to this happening now,” said Councilman Tompkins. “We all want to see the fireworks down there.”

Although the Niagara Reporter cannot confirm whether KeyBank was part of the Restaino / Rulli group or not, what we can confirm is that their efforts sparked a movement that ultimately led to the Fourth of July fireworks display being salvaged for the residents of Niagara Falls.

Asked what it means to him about the Niagara Falls community that it took residents stepping up to ensure that the community did not go without fireworks, Councilman Tompkins replied, “I can’t say enough about how amazing this community is.”

“They’ll tell you when you’re wrong. They’ll tell you when you mess up. But if you ask them for help to improve the city, they stand right up and say ‘tell me how I can help.’ It keeps me motivated, that’s for sure,” said Councilman Tompkins.

“I can only thank the others who worked with me to get the process started and to those that stepped forward to make fulfilling our goal possible,” said Restaino. “This is for our residents. Our tradition of fireworks at Hyde Park will continue.”






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