Fleet Week, New York’s annual celebration of all things maritime, kicked off by the parade of ships dramatically making their way up the Narrows, is going to be considerably smaller — if it happens at all, this year — a victim of the sequester.
The event — which is timed to take place over Memorial Day weekend and which is scheduled to be held this year from May 22 to May 29 — traditionally brings huge crowds to the Bay Ridge waterfront, to watch the stately vessels arrive on the first morning.
But, this year, the U.S. Navy won’t send any ships, said Beth Baker, director of public affairs, for the Navy Region Mid-Atlantic. Nor will “additional Navy or Marine Corps personnel [be sent] to the city for the annual celebration,” she said.
“Fleet Week New York is a tremendous partnership between the people of New York City and Staten Island and our Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard team,” Baker added. “It is unfortunate the sea services will not be participating in the 2013 celebration due to our continuing budget challenges.
Nonetheless, said Baker, the Navy is trying to come up with ways that locally stationed units and personnel “can support” New York area Memorial Day observances and parades. “To honor those who died serving in our nation’s military services, local Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard commands will join local Army and Air Force commands to support as many Memorial Day events in the New York metro area as possible,” she added
“It’s a shame that the government doesn’t have the money to have Fleet Week,” Anthony Giovinco, the chief of staff for the Brooklyn Memorial Day Parade contended. “It’s not only a big event for Bay Ridge, for New York, this is a loss to the economy. Tourists come in and the sailors and Marines spend money in the city.
“We had Fleet Week after 9/11,” Giovinco added. “Why can’t we have Fleet Week now? I don’t understand that.”
The borough’s Memorial Day Parade, the oldest continuously run such event in the country, will also suffer.
“Every year, we have sailors and Marines from the fleet who march in the Memorial Day Parade in Bay Ridge,” noted Ray Aalbue, first vice president of the United Military Veterans of Kings County which organizes the parade, and the parade chair. “They add such a meaningful dimension to the line of march. As we march down Third Avenue, the people lining the street really raise their voices and applaud their efforts. We’re going to miss them this year.”
But, said Congressmember Michael Grimm, the reduction in scope of Fleet Week is not yet set in stone. Grimm told this paper that he is, “Still working on it.
“I haven’t given up yet,” he stressed, pointing out that Fleet Week is “a long-standing tradition that brings a lot of economic benefits.” Shrinking it, Grimm said, “May be a penny-wise, pound-foolish way of approaching this. I’m hoping that they will rethink it and see that the benefits outweigh the small savings.”