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July 4th Fireworks Manhattan Photos

Macy’s Expands NYC Fireworks Celebration North on East River Manhattan

fireworks east river nyc july 4July 6, 2015 / Manhattan Neighborhoods / Manhattan Holidays NYC / Manhattan Buzz NYC.

It was a near perfect evening as I made my way toward the East River to watch the Macy’s 4th of July fireworks display. The first Macy’s fireworks display was in 1976 for the second bi-centennial celebration.

The photo at right shows the July 4th fireworks display from Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island.

Last year Mayor de Blasio urged Macy’s to return the fireworks display to the East River, as it had been moved to the Hudson in 2008 in celebration of the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s discovery of the river named after him. Macy’s continued to host it there until 2014.

There were six barges along the Hudson in 2008, which was reduced to three barges surrounding the Brooklyn Bridge in 2014. This year they added two barges which were positioned further north along the East River manhattan fireworks july 4thmaking it possible to enjoy the display from many parts of eastern Manhattan further north along the East River.

We had identified many of the best places to watch the July 4th fireworks in Manhattan in an earlier posting, but given the addition of barges stationed further north along the East River, it was difficult to determine how far north along the East River one could go and still enjoy a good fireworks show.

So with that in mind I made my way toward the 59th Street Bridge as I was pretty certain it would be closed, but it would have been the perfect place from which to photograph the fireworks. As expected there were police officers standing at the bicycle / pedestrian entrance to the bridge and they informed me that it would not be open until 10.30 pm, or about a half hour after the fireworks display.

The photo at right shows the Queens audience along the East River and northern tip of Gantry Park in Long Island City on Saturday night July 4th, just after the fireworks ended.

Click here for the rest of our story about the 4th of July fireworks Manhattan NYC as seen from Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island.


July 4th Fireworks In Manhattan Photos

Macy’s Expands NYC Fireworks Celebration Along East River

manhattan fireworks july 4thJuly 6, 2015 / Manhattan Neighborhoods / Manhattan Holidays NYC / Manhattan Buzz NYC. Continued.

Manhattan 4th of July Fireworks: Roosevelt Island

I decided to make a run for Roosevelt Island and the Four Freedoms Park at the southern tip of the island. I knew you had to have a ticket to enter, but took the risk that valid press credentials would do.

Upon arriving on Roosevelt Island, I headed west from the Tram Station. Along the western side of the island there was a gate through which people with passes were being admitted into the park. The passes were made available through the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation which, as the name suggests, in some measure oversees the island operations.

Crowds Swarm Waterfront For July 4th Fireworks Display

I headed further south down to the park, but it was full [1,600 people], so we were detained at the gate adjacent to the old historic Smallpox Hospital on Roosevelt Island. It was from this point that I shot many of the Macy's July 4th fireworks photos.

Four Freedoms Park Roosevelt Island

manhattan fireworks july 4thAfter the show I met Suzy Brown, VP of Operations for Four Freedoms Park, who told me that the historic structure just north of the park was the old Smallpox Hospital. The structure had been stabilized and they were hoping, in time, to make use of it. I forget what purpose she had mentioned, but historic museum is what first came to my mind.

A Brief History: Roosevelt Island, Welfare Island & Blackwell Island

Our brief history of Roosevelt Island starts in the early 1830’s. At the time Roosevelt Island was known as Blackwell’s Island, as it had been named after the man who had once owned the island. A hospital [not the one standing] was erected which was designed to serve prisoners from Blackwell’s Penitentiary, which had been erected on the island at about the same time.

Historic Landmark: Smallpox Hospital by James Remnick, Jr.

roosevelt island july 4 fireworksIn the mid 1850’s the Smallpox Hospital, the remnants of which you can see in the photo at right, was erected. James Remnick Jr. a renowned New York City architect had designed it. He was known for his Gothic Revival design.

Shortly after Smallpox Hospital had been erected, a fire destroyed the original hospital, which had been erected in the 1830’s to serve the Blackwell Penitentiary prisoner population. Smallpox is a very contagious disease and putting the Smallpox Hospital on Blackwell’s Island was intended to separate the contagious patients from the general population.

In the early 1860’s a new hospital was erected to replace the one which had burned down which had served the prisoner population. It was named City Hospital and was located just north of the Smallpox Hospital, which as mentioned is still standing.

Over time Smallpox Hospital also served the poor. In the 1920’s they renamed the island, Welfare Island, to more accurately describe the island purpose.

Blackwell Penitentiary & City Hospital Close

roosevelt island july 4 fireworks photosIn the mid 1930’s Blackwell’s Penitentiary was closed and razed by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, as the prison had fallen into gangsters’ hands. Rikers Island was used to replace Blackwell’s Penitentiary.

In the mid 1950’s City Hospital and Smallpox Hospital operations were closed and moved to Queens [I believe much went to Elmhurst Hospital]. After that, the buildings fell into disrepair.

Welfare Island Becomes Roosevelt Island

In 1973 Welfare Island was renamed Roosevelt Island. City Hospital was razed and I understand that some of its stones were used in the construction of Four Freedoms Park. Smallpox Hospital still stands [see photos at right] and is a landmark, and included in the Historic Register.

Four Freedoms Park Hours Roosevelt Island

fouir freedoms park roosevelt island photo nightFour Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island was named after the speech made by FDR in his eighth State of the Union Address in 1941 where he said,

"In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression – everywhere in the world.

The second is freedoms of every person to worship god in his own way – everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want…everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear…anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation."

His wife, Eleanor Roosevelt said freedom and rights begin at home on a person to person level,

“Where, after all, do universal rights begin? In small place, close to home ... unless these rights have meaning here, they will have little meaning anywhere else."

Suzy Brown, VP of Operations for Four Freedoms Park, said that Four Freedoms Park had opened in 2012, and began full operations in 2013. The park is open from April 1st to September 30th from 9 am to 7 pm and from October 1st to March 31st from 9 am to 5 pm.

I think she told me [didn’t write it down so not 100% sure] that this was the first year Four Freedoms Park hosted the public for the July 4th fireworks show. The addition of the two barges [from where the fireworks were launched] being stationed further north along the East River, made viewing the fireworks from the park more optimal. In the photo at right is Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island looking directly south along the East River shortly after the July 4th, 2015 fireworks show.

All in all it was a great show. A planetary tribal celebration of America, if you will, given that NYC is home to one of the most ethnically mixed populations on earth.

Here’s wishing you the best for the coming year – until the next one.

You can click here for a prior report about places to watch the 4th of July fireworks in Manhattan, including viewing locations and times. You can click here for a prior report about the development of Cornell Technion on Roosevelt Island on our sister web magazine Queens Buzz.


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