First published July 4, 2009
So why did Macy's and New York decide to put the fireworks where only half the people who wanted to see them could see them?
Your Chronicler loves fireworks. Really, really loves them! I am fond of things that go "Boom!" and have pretty colors and lots of glitter. So on a gorgeous July 4 evening at around 7:50, I headed out in search of big bang bliss -- the famous Macy's fireworks, this year scheduled to explode over the Hudson River.
Your Chronicler also loves research, so I visited the Macy's Fireworks Web site to find out how to get a prime spot. I found the following:
The Fireworks may be viewed from any area with an unobstructed view of the sky above the Hudson River. For the best views, head to 12th Avenue below 59th Street at the following access points along 11th Avenue:
26th through 30th Streets
40th through 44th Streets
47th through 52nd Streets
54th through 57th Streets
Please note: there is very limited viewing north of 59th Street on the west side.
Ah, if only someone had informed the police officers all the way down 11th Avenue! Reality intruded, and all my research was in vain. For there was not one access point open from 59th Street to 28th Street. I know. I walked from 76th Street down West End and kept heading south (after the name change) on 11th Avenue. Every single street was blocked off, and New York's finest had no idea where or if any access was available. (From what I could tell after my long, long walk, there was no access, period -- anywhere, anyhow.) Every police officer had a different suggestion, one saying go to 72nd Street (so much for the "limited viewing" idea) and another saying go down to 24th Street. What was obvious was that the police were told to let no one go west. And 11th Avenue was full of traffic, too, so you couldn't walk on the sidewalks (too crowded) or on the street (too much traffic, and police telling you, "Stay on the sidewalk!" as if you could). If you talked to people going north while you were going south, the concept of "access points" was a total crock. The police knew no more than we did.
What a disaster! I passed thousands and thousands of people trying to find a place to watch the show, and it soon became obvious, at least to me, that there was no such place. The police would not let us stand behind the barricades to look down any of the side streets, and there was no "unobstructed view of the sky" to be found anywhere. The best bit of pavement I found was at 30th Street.
When the fireworks were on the East River, it was so easy to get up on the highway and find a spot to watch. While there was the occasional overhead lamp diluting the sky, all views were unobstructed. There were huge crowds, but there always seemed to be room. And I remember when the fireworks were more accessible on the Hudson -- when we could stand on the West Side Highway or down at the river's edge. (Those were the days -- walk to Riverside Park and up on the highway, then glide home in less than five minutes.)
What I saw of this year's fireworks was through the glare of the lights of a gas station, craning my neck to see over a woman's elbow as she held her camera high to take pictures or contorting myself to see beyond a very tall man's head to catch what little was visible. Definitely obstructions galore. Boy, do I wish I had been a big shot or a celebrity or a big donor or something so I could have had a nice place to watch them! But woe, I was just a New Yorker among thousands of disappointed tourists and neighbors with a pathetic view of what I imagine was a spectacular light show. I could only try to imagine how glorious the sight must have been, based on fireworks past.
Thank goodness the Yankees won in 12 innings today. Otherwise my Fourth would have been a total disappointment. Yes, I heard the usual oohs and ahhs during the display, and the applause following the show. But those of us who have seen the fireworks the way they're supposed to be seen could only be disappointed and wonder what the heck Macy's, and Mayor Bloomberg, and whatever powers that be who kept us penned in on 11th Avenue were thinking.
Some people did make it further west, I suppose, since I saw them walking east wearing wide smiles as I trudged home. Did they get there early this morning and set up shop before the police manned the barricades? Once back in the hovel, I rubbed my blisters (hey, I walked a hundred blocks down and back!) and watched a news show that gave the fireworks a rave review. Oh, well. If only I'd been able to see them.
Maybe the mayor and Macy's will explain why the Big Apple's residents pay taxes to have our hard-working police officers let us know that if we want to see the greatest show in New York, we should head to New Jersey.