What to Know
Thousands of people lined the shores of the East River for Macy's 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular
Celebrations were in full swing from Jersey City to Coney Island, where Joey Chestnut won the Nathan's hot dog eating contest
In New Jersey, many were still dispirited by a government shutdown, and Jersey Shore beaches weren't as busy as in past years
Spectators lined the East River on Tuesday for the nation’s largest fireworks show, and along the shores of Long Island and New Jersey, beachgoers soaked in the sun on a beautiful July day.
Across the tri-state, residents were getting into the spirit of the Fourth of July. The whiff of barbecues filled the air from the suburbs of North Jersey to the backyards of Brooklyn.
Shortly after nightfall, more than 60,000 shells were used to light up the night sky above the city following a show by Jennifer Lopez, Sheryl Crow, Brad Paisley and others. Shades of red and blue flashed off the faces of spectators as fireworks boomed above the East River and echoed through city streets.
Earlier on Tuesday, Macy’s promised the largest Fourth of July Spectacular in more than a decade.
“It’s going to be the biggest show that we’ve seen, in terms of shells, since 2000,” said Susan Tercero, group vice president of brand and entertainment at Macy's.
“We have five barges on the East River, the weather is gorgeous. It’s going to be a great show,” Tercero said.
Thousands descended on the shorelines of Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn to get a seat for the East River show. Some of them arrived early in the day, hours before the fireworks launched at 9:30 p.m.
In Long Island City, spectators laid out blankets and propped up umbrellas at Gantry Plaza State Park. They lugged food and beach balls to the park’s grassy lawn or found their spot on one of the piers.
“It blows your mind,” Sarah Ocampo said of the fireworks show as she hung out in the sunny park on Tuesday afternoon.
Long Island City was considered the prime viewing point for this year’s show. Pyrotechnic barges shot fireworks off along a stretch of the East River from Kips Bay to the UN building, between 24th and 41st streets.
With 3 million spectators expected to line the East River, the NYPD stepped up security. In the wake of recent terrorist attacks in France, Britain and Germany, police used concrete blockers and sand trucks to protect areas where crowds gathered.
The NYPD’s counter terrorism unit, Critical Response Command, took the lead in keeping the city safe. The highly trained men and women spread out at strategic locations — from viewing points along the East River, to Trump Tower and Times Square.
The NYPD also used K9 units to sniff through crowds, fast boats to do radiological sweeps of boats, and cameras to monitor suspicious vehicles.
“I really appreciate the NYPD doing their hard work, and I think the presence of police is needed,” Stephanie Arpi said.
In Lower Manhattan, hundreds of American flags lined the reflection pools at the Sept. 11 memorial, creating a sea of red, white and blue.
And in Coney Island, reigning hot dog-eating champion Joey Chestnut won the Nathan's Famous July Fourth hot dog eating competition. He trounced the competition by eating 72 dogs and buns, besting his previous Coney Island record of 70 dogs in 10 minutes.
Nearby, thousands of people packed the beaches of Coney Island on a sunny day when high temperatures reached the low 80s.
On Long Island, boating safety patrols were in full effect, especially near Jones Beach, which holds a large fireworks show set to patriotic songs.
Boating on the Fourth of July has gotten so popular, that some boaters have opted to stay at the dock. Angela Paul, of North Massapequa, is one of them.
“A lot of boats, a lot of people going this way and that way,” Paul said. “It’s just not safe for us anymore.”
Other longtime boaters docked near Jones Beach State Park in Wantagh agreed.
“There’s so many boaters out there, that it gets to be worse than the Long Island Expressway at rush hour,” said Joe Blozis, of Massapequa.
In 2012, an overcrowded boat capsized near Oyster Bay and three children drowned.
In New Jersey, some residents spent the day at Jersey Shore beaches. But the crowds were sparser than usual. Tuesday’s celebrations come on the heels of a chaotic Fourth of July weekend that saw the state’s government shut down and the closure of state beaches and parks. Although they had reopened by Tuesday, many said the damage was already done.
The three-day shutdown hurt beach businesses, including Shore and More in Seaside Park.
“We were down 40 percent, or somewhere in that range,” said Dominick Solazzo. “Talking to some of the other business owners in town, the surf shop said it was the worst in 18 years.”
In Jersey City, residents were disappointed that the government shutdown forced the city's Fourth of July celebration to move from Liberty State Park to Exchange Place, in the downtown.
“I think it’s a joke,” said Jeanette Cuadro, of Jersey City. “I think the politicians should stop playing games and do for the people.”
Despite the move, the show went off without a hitch and many spectators said they were impressed with the One World Trade Center backdrop the new location provided.
Gov. Chris Christie was caught the ire of many residents during and after the shutdown, especially after photos taken by the state’s largest newspaper, The Star-Ledger, showed the governor hanging out with his family on a state beach shut down to the public.
“Seeing the last couple days of him being on the beach here and not allowing anybody else to be on the beach is pretty disgusting in my book,” said John Sotelo, of Forked River.
For others, the change of venue didn't matter because spending the night with loved ones is what's important.
"For me it's just being here spending quality time with my family," Krystal Austin of Newark said.
Despite the spectacle of the political previous days, people still managed to get into the summer holiday spirit. On a beach in Seaside Heights, someone built a giant sand sculpture of Gov. Christie lounging in a chair, a tribute to a viral photo of the governor lounging on a beach closed to the public amid the budget impasse. Beachgoers took photos with the sculpture and splashed in the ocean nearby. By nightfall, the sculpture was destroyed.