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July 4th At Four Freedoms Park Roosevelt Island

Macy’s Expands NYC Fireworks Celebration Along East River

four freedoms park fireworksJuly 6, 2015 / Queens Neighborhoods / Queens Holidays / Queens Buzz.

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 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.

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 four freedoms park fireworksmaking it possible to enjoy the display from many parts of western Queens along the East River.

We had identified many of the best places to watch the July 4th fireworks in Queens in an earlier posting, but given the changes, 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 Queensboro 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 two police officers standing at the Queens 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 July 4th fireworks display from Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island.

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


July 4th Fireworks In Queens Photos

Macy’s Expands NYC Fireworks Celebration Along East River

July 6, 2015 / Queens Neighborhoods / Queens Holidays / Queens Buzz. Continued.

Queens 4th of July Fireworks: Queens Bridge Park & Roosevelt Island

4th july fireworks queens bridge parkI continued west toward the East River and soon arrived in Queens Bridge Park which is located in the shadow and just north of the Queensboro Bridge. The park was sparsely populated with families, barbeques, music and conversation. There was also a significant police presence there and everyone seemed to be having a good time [see Queens Bridge Park police officers in photo at right].

I was pretty sure that I could shoot some good photos of the fireworks from here, but 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.

So I crossed the bridge over to Roosevelt Island and headed south along the main street to 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 LIC & Queens 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.

I spoke with numerous people along the way to obtain bits of information which I will share with you – BUT please understand that this is unverified conversational hearsay. Nonetheless, the hearsay seemed within the range of reasonableness, based on things I witnessed myself.

Hunters Point South Park & Gantry State Park: July 4th Fireworks Queens

estimated crowds at july 4th fireworks 2015 lic gantry park queensSome significant portion of Hunters Point South Park had been cordoned off for the Macy’s Fireworks show. I had been at Hunters Point South Park just over a week ago and they were shooting a performance along the waterfront, which was to be a part of the show on the weekend, so this made sense [see photo at right].

The unofficial estimates of the EXPECTED attendance at Gantry State Park along Center Blvd in Long Island City for the 4th of July Fireworks show were in the neighborhood of 50,000. I had encountered a similar estimate for the fireworks show commemorating the 50th anniversary of the World's Fair in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in the Spring of 2014, which I can assure you never came to pass [they hit 5,000 to 10,000 tops].

But based on what I could photograph from Roosevelt Island, and discussions with the crowd I encountered leaving the area over an hour later, there were HUGE crowds along the LIC waterfront. Whether it was 50,000 or not, I do not know. And I also heard that the police deployed their largest Queens-side contingent to that area, including about 200 police men and women. They had set up street controls earlier in the day and began to control the influx as the crowds gathered and the day wore on. These crowd controls are similar to what is done in Manhattan near the South Street Seaport and also in Brooklyn along the Promenade.

Rainey Park & Socrates Sculpture Park: Places Not To Watch Fireworks In Queens

alma realty development at 35th avenue & vernon blvd astoria lic queensI made my way up to Rainey Park after the show. Folks there told me that they could see some of the fireworks, but that the very large new development being erected along the waterfront had blocked their view. The development is owned by Davidson Equities LLC, but the phone listed on the construction zone signage is answered as Alma Realty. As you can see from the photo at right, the development includes two very large 20 story towers.

Four Freedoms Park Roosevelt Island

After 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.

smallpox hospirtal photo roosevelt islandIn 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

smallpox hospirtal photo roosevelt islandIn 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 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 Queens 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 Queens, including viewing locations and times. You can click here for a prior report about the development of Cornell Technion on Roosevelt Island.


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