The Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks display has been a New York tradition since the bi-centennial in 1976 but only relocated across town in 2009. The grumbling in Brooklyn and Manhattan’s east side continues still – The Brooklyn Eagle headline (April 3 ) read:
“Macy’s Sparks Resentment in Brooklyn with Fireworks Snub”
State Senator Daniel Squadron (D-Brooklyn) complained, “…Millions of New Yorkers who live in Brooklyn, Queens, and the East Side of Manhattan are kept out of the party, while we send visitors and business to New Jersey.” The previous site was at the base of the East River in the Upper NY Bay providing prime viewing to the three NY boroughs. The new venue consists of four barges in the Hudson River stretching from 18th St. to 48th St. supposedly to commemorate Henry Hudson’s maiden voyage up the river that bears his name. That’s quite a large viewing area that easily accommodates millions of fireworks fans in New York and New Jersey alike.
Therein lies the rub. They are, after all our fireworks and why should we give them away for free – bad enough they stole two NY football teams and a basketball franchise (happy to say the Nets are returning to NY soil next fall in the form of the Brooklyn Nets). In response to Sen. Squadron’s complaints, Macy’s has hired a team of laser scientists who are working on techniques to block the view from the Jersey side but if that proves unfeasible they have also made it clear that the move was not permanent. Macy’s spokesperson, Orlando Veras indicated,
“While the show will be on the Hudson River this year, Macy’s Fireworks will continue to take place in and around all of New York City’s waterways, and will not be a permanent fixture in any one location.”
While sympathetic to the plight of our Brooklyn friends and relatives, our new apartment in the West Village is just a block from the Hudson River and we decided to stroll over and take advantage of our made-to-order viewing location. After another delicious dinner at The Bakehouse (Horatio and West St.) we walked across the street at 8:30, easily found a spot to sit among the crowd of all ages and waited for the show to begin. And finally about an hour later it was show time. Each of the four barges set off an independent but coordinated display that was set to a musical score available for streaming on a mobile device – we chose to watch the silent movie version.
The technical detail was very good, a nice mix and use of color and some new fancy shapes (e.g., hearts and rings of Saturn). But rather than use the full canvas and fill it with complementary interactive motion, all four barges were programmed with the same pyrotechnics in near perfect temporal and spatial symmetry. It looked like we were watching a Busby Berkeley synchronized fireworks display – only less inventive (speaking of which… did anyone see the incredibly talented and entertaining Russian synchronized swimmers at the London Olympics?). The result was a bit of a disappointment especially when compared with videos of the fireworks performance in 2010 in which each of the four barges seemed to play off of each other’s visual riffs like a fine jazz quartet.
And who asked them to Supersize the performance anyway? Did they check with Mayor Bloomberg to make sure it was not deleterious to our health? The show lasted nearly 45 minutes and after a while various segments appeared familiar as if they were looping scenes to extend the action. In keeping with the blues lyric “it’s not the meat, it’s the motion,” a well-orchestrated 20 – 30 minute fireworks display seems about right… enough time to start off modestly and slowly build to the grand finale while keeping your attention glued to the sky rather than checking your watch. There were at least three occasions that people mistook the display for the finale, which when it finally did arrive, was less than orgasmic.