The annual Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks show will go on despite the coronavirus pandemic this year — just don’t ask where or when.
Rather than the roughly 25-minute star-spangled spectacle in a single location that viewers have come to expect on Independence Day, this year’s show is being scattered across the boroughs into a number of smaller displays over a couple of nights next week to reduce crowds and encourage social distancing. The mini displays will build up to a televised finale featuring the Empire State Building on the Fourth.
Macy’s M, +0.98% described the reimagined show as a “series of high elevation unannounced displays from select locations across every borough” in a press release on Tuesday. The organizers are not revealing exactly where these five-minute mini fireworks shows will be, nor which nights they will be on, in an effort to prevent crowds of spectators from forming ahead of time to get a front-row seat. The light shows will run between Monday, June 29 and Saturday, July 4, launching unexpectedly from one or two land or water-based locations across the boroughs that the organizers state “could safely accommodate the launch and firing of large-scale pyrotechnics.” The fireworks can reach maximum heights of 1,000 feet, and can be seen far and wide.
“These past few months have been some of the most difficult in our city’s history, and New Yorkers are looking for a break,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “This 4th of July Celebration with Macy’s will give all New Yorkers a safe and exciting way to enjoy the holiday together, even when we are apart.”
Ironically, this announcement came the same day that the mayor also launched a task force to crack down on the nightly barrage of illegal fireworks that city residents have become increasingly vocal about during the last several weeks.
Some New Yorkers who have already been on edge after weeks of disrupted sleep from illegal fireworks were less than ecstatic about Macy’s announcement.
“Why?” tweeted one reader under the name Jay. “Its been going on every night already in every damn borough!?”
“Please god no more,” wrote another under the name Braden Bradley.
While there’s generally an increase in illegal fireworks activity leading up to the Fourth in New York City, fireworks complaints have skyrocketed by 236 times this month compared with the same period last year, Gothamist reported. And there have been more than 12,500 calls to NYC’s 911 system this month alone about fireworks, or roughly 12 times the number of comparable calls from the first six months of 2019, the New York Times reported.
There was a protest outside the mayor’s upper east side residence on Monday night, as New Yorkers fed up with the fusillade of fireworks that have kept them up drove to Gracie Mansion and honked their car horns into the wee hours to disrupt the mayor’s sleep, too, and demand action.
Indeed, illegal fireworks complaints have been exploding across the country, including in Boston, Chicago and San Francisco, which has sparked a number of conspiracy theories. They include suggesting that the fireworks are an organized effort to disorient and destabilize communities of color and neighborhoods that have protested police brutality in recent weeks, by making residents sleep-deprived. Others theorize that the fireworks have become so prolific due to police officers slowing down their response times in retaliation to calls for law enforcement reform and defunding the police.
But many reports and pyrotechnic experts believe it’s more likely the result of people blowing off steam. The New York Times suggests the fireworks “serve as a release after months of boredom and seclusion in cramped apartments.” Bill Weimer, vice president of Phantom Fireworks, a leading fireworks retailer in the U.S., told CNN that the demand his company has seen this year “so far has been the strongest early fireworks season I’ve seen in my years of involvement in the fireworks business.” What’s more, 40% of them are first-time buyers, and his theory is that folks are putting on their own fireworks shows now that so many cities are canceling large-scale July 4th displays.
“It’s a combination of people getting out, being anxious and having this pent-up energy, and then right around the corner is a quintessential firework holiday,” he said. “Put the two together, consider the fact that there won’t be a lot of fireworks, and suddenly, you have a formula that means people are buying more and more fireworks, and buying them earlier.”
When asked whether having Macy’s set off fireworks “unannounced” and without warning across NYC could trigger residents with PTSD, or scare pets and small children, a spokesperson explained that a majority of the locations chosen for this year’s displays have hosted fireworks in the past. Plus, the brief displays will not be every night next week, and will take place shortly after dark “at an appropriate time” — not two in the morning.
NBC’s CMCSA, +1.97% national broadcast of the Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular will run from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET on July 4th.
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