For many years, Queens residents from Astoria to Flushing to Howard Beach would go to their rooftops, terraces or attic windows at sunset, or find a comfortable place on the Grand Avenue LIE overpass, in Queensbridge Park, or on the Joseph Addabbo Bridge, anywhere with a good view of the Manhattan skyline, and look west. They were treated to one of the country’s most well-known pyrotechnics shows — the Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks
Then in 2009, Macy’s moved the show to the Hudson River to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s sail up his namesake waterway. That year, the show was blocked from view for most of the borough by the Manhattan skyline. Macy’s promised them the move would only be temporary, but four Independence Days later, the barges that carried the Macy’s show still sat on the New York-New Jersey border.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is asking Macy’s to bring the show back to the East River next year and is circulating a petition seeking signatures in support.
De Blasio spokesman Wiley Norvell said as many as 1,000 people have signed the petition as of June 30, and the public advocate is planning to bring the list of signatures to a meeting with the famous retailer sometime in July with state Sen. Dan Squadron (D-Brooklyn) and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz.
“We’re going to be sitting down with Macy’s sometime in the next couple of weeks,” he said adding that the petition will be circulated even after the meeting.
The Hudson River is a wider body of water, and unlike the East River, it does not have any bridges spanning it south of the George Washington Bridge, which makes it an easier place to park barges full of exploding fireworks. But the show was done on the East River for a number of years, and de Blasio believes an East River show is better for all residents of New York City, including Queens where people in high-rises in Forest Hills and Flushing could have good views of the show.
“There’s a big difference in terms of the equity of it,” Norvell said, pointing out that an East River show is more convenient both for residents living in the wealthy Queens West development and in adjacent Gantry State Park, as well as in low-income housing projects like Queensbridge, Ravenswood and Astoria Houses. The East River fireworks were viewable from at least as far into Queens as MacNeil Park in College Point and Broad Channel.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), whose district includes much of the East River shoreline, has been pushing Macy’s to bring the show back for a few years.
“I have watched the fireworks from Gantry State Park in the past. I know what a boon it is to local businesses and restaurants and I know how people enjoy watching them from their rooftops or in the street,” he explained. “It’s a big, big deal.
Van Bramer understood the reasoning that the Hudson River is an easier venue to conduct a fireworks show, but noted that an East River show is not unprecedented.
“Whether or not it’s easier is not something I would dispute,” he said. “But it’s not like they haven’t done it before.”