“People here are very open, and very nice to us” — Fleet Week in NYC

New York City is celebrating Fleet Week from May 22 through May 28, 2019. Now in its 31st year, this annual tradition gives sailors, marines and coast guard service members the opportunity to explore the city and meet its residents. Our blog this week takes a look back at receptions and events hosted by the Mayor’s Office for the men and women of the United States Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard and naval vessels from around the world.

The United States Marine Corps band entertains guests at the inaugural Fleet Week welcoming ceremony on the Steps of City Hall, April 22, 1988, photographer Joan Vitale Strong. Mayor Edward I. Koch Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

Mayor Edward Koch presided over the first Fleet Week during the last week in April 1988.  Always a cheerleader for the City, Koch’s welcoming remarks reminded his guests of our maritime history:  “It is my great honor today to welcome the officers and enlisted men and women of the greatest navy in the world to the City of New York.  Fleet week is a wonderful opportunity for New Yorkers to demonstrate our immense pride at being one of the premiere ‘Navy Towns’ in America.”

Mayor Edward Koch meets an eagle at Fleet Week 1989 ceremonies on Governors Island, April 29, 1989, roll 1, frame 24A, photographer Joan Vitale Strong. Mayor Edward I. Koch Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

Fleet Week always commences with a parade of ships. In 1989 the flotilla proceeded from New York Harbor and up the Hudson River to midtown.

Coast Guard ship passing in front of the Statue of Liberty during the parade of ships, April 29, 1989, photographer Joan Vitale Strong. Mayor Edward I. Koch Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

U. S. Navy vessel passes along Battery Park with the World Trade Center Twin Towers in the background, April 29, 1989, photographer Joan Vitale Strong. Mayor Edward I. Koch Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

Fleet Week ’91 Program. Mayor David N. Dinkins event files, June 7, 1991. Mayor David N. Dinkins Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

Mayor David N. Dinkins’ files for the 1991 Fleet Week celebration included a printed program for the reception and a transcript of his welcoming  remarks.  The eloquent mayor greeted his distinguished visitors with a short speech:

“We in New York always look forward to Fleet Week.  It is a favorite rite of spring, evoking thoughts of salty sea breezes, and charging the air with added excitement, as naval officers and crew members, in crisp white, mingle with city residents on New York streets and sidewalks. Our harbor – for centuries the port for boats from all over the world – becomes even more dynamic with this infusion of extra activity.” 

According to the New York Times, 10,000 sailors visited New York City during Fleet Week 1995, and two hundred of them stood in formation at City Hall Plaza during the welcoming ceremony on May 25.

U.S. Navy sailors in formation, City Hall Plaza, May 25, 1995, photographer Joseph Reyes. Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

The first Fleet Week following the September 11, 2001 attack that destroyed the World Trade Center began on May 22, 2002. The festivities included receptions at 31 Chambers Street and the Intrepid Sea and Air Space Museum. 

Police Commissioner Ray Kelly addresses Fleet Week visitors in the central lobby at 31 Chambers Street on May 22, 2002. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg poses with U. S. Marine Corps men and women at the Intrepid Air and Space Museum on May 23, 2001. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

Mayor Bloomberg accepts a plaque commemorating the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 from Admiral Jonathan Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations, during a breakfast reception at Gracie Mansion, May 24, 2012. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum is a popular venue for Fleet Week celebrations. In 2017, Mayor de Blasio greeted visiting U.S. naval officers on the deck of the former aircraft carrier.  Launched in 1943, the USS Intrepid was deployed in World War II, survived five kamikaze attacks and one torpedo strike. The ship later served in the Cold War and the Vietnam War. Decommissioned in 1974, and berthed on the Hudson River, it serves as the centerpiece of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum.

Mayor Bill de Blasio tours the USS Kearsarge as part of Fleet Week 2017. Monday, May 29, 2017. Ed Reed photographer. Courtesy Mayor’s Office of Creative Communications.

Throughout the 31-year history of Fleet Week celebrations, the news media typically interview visiting service men and women for their reactions to the city and its inhabitants. In 2012, the Navy News Service, an official U.S. Navy Publication, reported that more than 6,000 service-members from the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, as well as a coalition of ships from around the world visited the City during the week-long event. One visitor, according to the Navy News, Indonesian Sub-Lieutenant Mario Marco from the KRI Dewaruci, noted sailors aboard his country's lone tall-mast ship have already experienced New York City's renowned hospitality: “People here are very open, and very nice to us,” said Marco.

For a complete list of activities and events for NYC Fleet Week 2019:

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