4th of July fizzles out for area fireworks fans

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For the last decade and a half, the Brooklyn Heights and Carroll Gardens⁄Red Hook waterfronts have become a July 4th destination point, when the Macy’s annual fireworks light up the East River night sky.

But this year, the pyrotechnics will instead be launched from barges in the Hudson River; it will be the first time the East River will not host fireworks since 1993. The change honors the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s discovery of New Amsterdam aboard the Dutch vessel, The Half Moon.

But the decision has drawn the ire of Brooklyn politicians who feel their borough has been snubbed. Two of them – Borough President Marty Markowtiz and Councilmember David Yassky – are calling on Macy’s to split the fireworks between the Hudson and East Rivers.

“While I say bravo to Macy’s for acknowledging the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s famous voyage for the Dutch East India Company, I remind them that Brooklyn, New York City’s own ‘Bruekelen,’ was among the earliest Dutch settlements in New Netherland,” said Markowitz, whose home borough takes its name – though not the exact spelling – from that of the Dutch town.

Yassky, who represents Brooklyn Heights, Greenpoint, and parts of Williamsburg, Park Slope and Boerum Hill, painted the move as something that would hurt Brooklyn businesses for the benefit of ones in New Jersey.

“Moving the show to New Jersey would negatively impact thousands of tourists and residents who come to Manhattan and Brooklyn to enjoy the show, and the countless local businesses who benefit from the event,” said Yassky, whose district includes the Williamsbu­rg−Green­point waterfront.

“I urge Macy’s to split the show so that Brooklyn residents are not robbed of this important tradition and influx of economic activity during this period of economic uncertainty,” continued Yassky. In 2000, fireworks were launched over both the Hudson and East Rivers.

Councilmember Bill de Blasio, who represents Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens and Columbia Street, as well as Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Kensington and Boro Park, had a similar thought.

“It is troubling to have the fireworks display completely moved, leaving Brooklyn residents out of the this year’s Fourth of July celebration. I believe we must keep a fair portion of fireworks on the East River, even if some are moved to the Hudson river in honor of Henry Hudson,” he said.

Macy’s spokesperson Orlando Veras said splitting up the fireworks was “not possible.” He said the show “is not going to New Jersey. The show is for New York.”

“The 400th anniversary of Hudson’s voyage is a major milestone, and one that we’re excited to celebrate,” he said.

Some Brooklynites have expressed concern that the fireworks would stay over the Hudson permanently.

Veras would not discuss specifics of future shows, but said, “Just because a show is not in one place one year doesn’t mean it won’t be there the next year.”

He said the location of the show is determined on a year−by−year basis, depending on its creative aspect.

Before becoming an annual tradition in 1976, Macy’s fireworks actually debuted over the Hudson in 1958. In 1959, there was a show over the Hudson commemorating the 350th anniversary of Hudson’s voyage.

From 1958 to 1963, fireworks were launched over the Hudson between 72nd and 125th Streets in Manhattan. After a 13−year hiatus, the annual tradition began in earnest in 1976.

The theme of this year’s show is American River. Over 40,000 shells will be launched in the air, in tune to a musical score celebrating Hudson’s journey and the founding of New Amsterdam.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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