A roar of happiness greeted the Year of the Tiger on Sunday as thousands of people crowded the streets of Manhattan's Chinatown to mark the Lunar New Year.
Spectators stood 10 deep, stepping on firecrackers that popped amid floats and balloons in the parade lineup, squeezed into narrow Mott Street.
On Sunday, the neighborhood was bustling with visitors from around the world while residents were "looking to a bright future," said Siukwan Chan, waiting to march in the parade with others from Asian Americans for Equality."
And for the first time, a group of gay Asian-Americans asked to join the parade and did so peacefully.
"It's happier this year because more people are coming here to show their support for our community," Chan said.
Some at the festival were relieved that as the Chinese new year starts, the U.S. government's initial plan to hold the Sept. 11 trial in Lower Manhattan seems to be fading. Those opposed to the location cite disruptions around the courthouse created by security and logistical requirements, including loss of business.
"What do you do, circumvent a quarter of a mile in a stroller to get to where you need to go?'' asked Tim Rivera, who brought his sons, ages 3 and 5, from their nearby home in the Financial District. "You couldn't get the kids to the park or anywhere."
Rivera said a trial in the city would have been a nightmare for everyone trying to get around in the radius of the courthouse.
When U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced last month that professed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four accused accomplices would be tried in federal court in lower Manhattan, the initial outcry was over doing so in a civilian court. Critics warned that the trial would give the men a world stage to spout anti-U.S. rhetoric.
Faced with fierce opposition, the Obama administration is reconsidering its plan to stage the federal court trial a short distance from Chinatown and the World Trade Center site.
Chinatown has been economically fragile for years, especially since the 9/11 attacks, and people were concerned that security needs would have been a setback to whatever recovery has been made, said Adam Wu, who works in the insurance industry.
"This is what we've been trying to do for years _ to bring more people to Chinatown for business," he said, glancing at the almost impassable crowd.
But Steven Chao, a martial arts performer in the parade, thought there would have been some value to prosecuting the suspects in New York.
He acknowledged such proceedings would have put a strain on the area, "but I have the feeling that if these men were tried where they did the most damage, it would offer some closure," he said.