Fleet Week is back in New York City after a year hiatus. However, the annual showcase of naval vessels and Naval and Coast Guard officers and soldiers is pared down quite a bit compared to years past. Budget concerns led to New York City scrapping the popular festival in 2012, but the vessels made their return this week. The dismantling of Fleet Week was due to widespread cuts to military programs caused by federal sequestration and one citizen, Queens-born David Comartie, was excited about the return of the showcase.
“It was something I enjoyed a lot over the years —my dad was in the Navy,” Comartie tells rolling out. “So I was really disappointed when they got rid of it.”
People like Comartie were undoubtedly a bit surprised to see what the “new” Fleet Week looks like. It is not very much like the old celebration at all.
In terms of the ships and the sailors, there was only about a quarter of what used to be displayed during the kickoff. Three naval ships and two Coast Guard cutters, reportedly carrying about 1,500 sailors, Marines and Coast Guard members, came to the Manhattan and Staten Island piers this year. Despite the not-quite-as-grand spectacle of large naval ships, the participants are still committed to making their presence felt around the city.
Naval and Coast Guard officers will be working for Habitat for Humanity, handling deliveries for Meals on Wheels and participating in parades all over the Bronx, Brooklyn and New Jersey. All over Manhattan, “Fleet Week 2014” signs and banners are still proudly displayed. So despite some complaints from local bartenders (and strip club owners) that the sailors aren’t quite as omnipresent as in years past, there’s still a good time to be had.
“I don’t care that it’s a little smaller,” Comartie said. “It’s a Memorial Day Weekend tradition for me and for a lot of New Yorkers. I still love it.”