Monday, July 7, 2008

The Good, Bad & Ugly Of Roosevelt Island July 4 Fireworks Extravaganza

You Tube video of 2008 Fourth of July Fireworks from Roosevelt Island

I purchased the last two general admission tickets to the July 4 Roosevelt Island Fireworks Extravaganza at the Tram station on Wednesday afternoon. Unfortunately, I had two additional family members visiting from out of state and no more tickets were left. I contacted RIOC President Shane, explained the situation and asked him if there were two tickets left that I could purchase. Mr. Shane advised that there were none left but very kindly offered me two complementary VIP tickets to the event which I accepted. When the four of us arrived at Southpoint, I asked Mr. Shane if my two guests could accompany us in the VIP section which he again graciously permitted.

It was quite simply a great time despite the rain. The view of the Macy's fireworks from that section of the southern tip of Southpoint Park below the stairs was fantastic and the ribs, burgers and beans from concessionaire Dinosaur BBQ was equally great. (It was also free). When the rain started to pour down the event organizers handed out rain ponchos that made everyone as comfortable as possible. Before the fireworks started, I walked around the General Admission area and everyone seemed to be having a good time. The politicians kept the speeches short and there were several different live bands playing with people dancing up front, though the sound system was a little loud for my aging ears.

From what I could observe, many of the people in the VIP section were either RIOC employees, government officials and their staff, Roosevelt Island residents who have volunteered or provided some sort of service to the community as well as guests of these groups. I guess I fit in the latter category.

Here's a slightly different view from blogger amreekandesi in the General Admission Seats.
... The Macy’s ‘spectacular‘ has been a Newyork tradition for the past 32 years. This year we decided to watch it from Roosevelt Island, which supposedly offers the best views of the show.

The show was nice. I probably didn’t enjoy it as much as i did the first time two years back, but then the first time is always more enjoyable.

... About the much touted view from the island, lets just say i am not going there next year. They had put up this big stage bang in the middle of where you would see the show, and the best area of the park was reserved for ‘VIP’s. They get to watch the entire show from prime spots and the paying thousands of people sit and fret.
Getting out of there was a pain. Huge lines to get into the train station. It took us about an hour to get inside. I had expected delays, but not of such magnitude. (Wonder how many of these people were wondering if it was worth standing in this long line, in rain, for not so unobstructed views of the fireworks that they could have watched for free elsewhere!)

All in all, a great show, but Roosevelt Island failed to live up to expectations.

Image of General Admission seating looking towards stage

and looking from the stage towards Queensboro Bridge

Another blogger, monkeytale-tiger, definitely did not have a good time at the Roosevelt Island Fireworks show:
... In the evening my date had tickets to watch the fireworks from Roosavelt island. The tickets are for seating at the tip of the island past the ruins of the turn of the century smallpox asylum. May I give you a piece of advice, save your money and don't do it. Camp out of the FDR if you must, find a friend with rooftop access or even watch it on TV, but don't give your money to this horrid farce of an event.

Whoever the planner is, should be shot. Although they insisted that everybody be seated for the start of the fireworks, they didn't insist people remain seated and nobody bothered to say your going to have to put your umbrella's away. Needless to say, the thing was ruined by the preponderance of rude people who think because they are paying for something, they deserve the best, forget all the other people paying.
And getting off Roosevelt Island after the fireworks show was not pleasant either according to monkeytale-tiger:
... Then the next nightmare began, getting off the island was nearly impossible. This is Roosevelt island. The only way off is by tram or subway. You cannot walk off the island (I would like to know the city planner that needs to be whipped for that lack of insight and planning) on any of the bridges, not even into queens. I can think of few worse ideas that packing into a dangling cattle car stuffed with sweaty tourists and screaming kids to travel over the east river. But the MTA decided that the subways will be restricted to very few people trickling in.
Also, new Roosevelt Island residents begona and mike commenting on this post observed:
The celebration was great, but the utter chaos at the end of the event was frightening. No information, no coordination, nobody seemed to care that everyone was trying to leave and get off the island all at once.

I'm not sure if the crowd last night was bigger than anticipated, because nothing we had seen prior to the event gave any indication as to the mob scene that it would be attempting to leave. Thank goodness we were able to spot the "residents only" line at the Subway (which I had never seen publicized anywhere before), which allowed our family to get off the island without having to wait several hours in a disorganized unruly line of people. Yes there were some helpers in orange shirts outside the subway, but the best they could do was scream at people who were trying to cut the line.

How can the subway station handle a nonstop flow of people onto the platform with our access to the train already limited by construction? Very dangerous situation down there.

I also hope that the tram - which was filled to capacity - was stress-tested to handle that repeated one-way load. That can't be good for the tram.

There should be - at the very least - some kind of instructions provided when purchasing the tickets about exiting the island after the event. There should also be some other activities to do while waiting for the crowds to clear out following the event.
Roosevelt Island 360 observed the departure of the fireworks crowd at the Roosevelt Island subway station and thinks on balance the MTA and police did a good job getting people off the Island.
... Overall I believe the MTA and NYPD did a good job of ensuring that the flow of riders did not result in one continuous burst of individuals trying to access the escalators, elevators, stairs and platforms all at once which could have lead to accidents at any of those points. The flow of individuals was staggered to allow for easy access down to the platforms and also to ensure the platforms were never overly crowded.

The first thing I noticed was that the MTA set up three defined entrance points (1) Metrocard holders (2) individuals with strollers, and (3) Roosevelt Island residents. The Metrocard holders entry point snaked a bit off towards the East / right away from the entrance and then back to the entrance to prevent the line from simply being a straight line back from the door to ensure no straight rush could be made for the doors. The RI residents line allowed residents immediate access no matter what with no delays which was a great feature.
Read the whole post. 360 took video of the Roosevelt Island evacuation.

I noticed that many people avoided the crowded subway lines by going to Starbucks which stayed open past midnight or to Nonnos for a pizza. That was the way to do it.

Late night at crowded Roosevelt Island Starbucks

Midnight crowd at Nonnos after fireworks


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the multitude of coverage. Having lived on the Island for the past few years, and now living in CT, I pined for the days of summer and fin of the 4th on Roosevelt Island. I would go on to anyone about how awesome a sight it was.
I hope you had fun!

Anonymous said...

Glad you picked up our comment.

Here's an idea we thought of: how about RIOC or the MTA offering shuttle buses in Queens to and from the 21st Street F Train Station and the Roosevelt Island bridge for those willing to walk a little bit and avoid the subway crowd?

At least that would be another viable option.

Your review was right about this - the BBQ and the beers were delicious. And we did enjoy the firework show, although ironically, the farther back you were, the better (and more unobstructed) view you could get. Maybe next year RIOC President Shane will grant us VIP access as well!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for disclosing that you were provided 2 Very Important Person Tickets (VIP) and that you were granted VIP entry with two additional general admission tickets. How about further disclosing the following:
1. a complete list of every individual who received a VIP status by RIOC; and
2. a full accounting of the costs of the fireworks production, separating out the cost of VIP food and the lost revenue for providing free admission to the VIP people.

Finally, how about a discussion of why a government body needs to have such a large VIP section? What is the stated purpose? Why is this different than Summer Stage or Shakespeare in the Park? How about getting back to the egalatarian roots of FDR and eliminating the VIP section, except for perhaps a visiting Mayor or Gov?


7:31 Statement of income and expenses for July 4 event from RIOC is now posted.
As to VIP issue, I will address that soon as well but are you sure that other similar public events like Summer Stage and Shakespeare in the Park don't do similar VIP seating?