New York City welcomes return of fireworks to the East River

new york city fireworks
Thousands of people watch the fireworks along the East River on July 4, 2005 in New York City.
Credit: David Paul Morris/Getty Images

New York City’s fireworks show isn’t just a West Side story this year.

For the first time since 2008, the nation’s largest Fourth of July fireworks show will return to the East River on Friday.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, after urging Macy’s executives to move the annual pyrotechnic display, announced the change in April. Thousands more New Yorkers, he said, will have better access to the fireworks show on the East Side.

And despite their loss, many West Siders agreed.

“The city is being fair to both sides,” Upper West Side resident Peter Strobel, 58, said. “It doesn’t really matter though – the main thing is that it’s a great event for families.” 

The fireworks were moved to the Hudson River in 2009 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of explorer Henry Hudson’s arrival in New York. The river allowed for more barges and the display stayed there for an extra four years, to the benefit of New Jersey and Manhattan’s West Side.

Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal said her Upper West Side constituents might be bummed, though she still supports the decision to move them back to the East Side.

“It’s a loss for the Upper West Side but I think it’s a gain for more people in New York City,” she said.

Andrew Albert, executive director of the West Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, said West Side businesses did very well when the fireworks were on the Hudson. But that doesn’t mean the change is a bad thing for locals.

The return of Jersey City’s own display will partially fill the void left by the move. And if New Jersey and West Side residents want to see the Macy’s display, they can.

“It’s not like you can’t get everywhere on mass transit,” Albert said.

During the Macy’s show, more than 40,000 pyrotechnic shells and effects will fired from barges in the East River and, for the first time, the Brooklyn Bridge. The display will also sync with the “Star Spangled Banner” for the anthem’s 200th anniversary.

“It’s always something amazing to see,” said Albert, who lives on the Upper West Side, of the show. He added, with a laugh, “But it means a trip down there.”

Joseph Souza and Samar Khurshid contributed reporting. Follow Anna Sanders on Twitter @AnnaESanders


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