Events for Independence Play

The Fourth of July is fast upon us. On Monday we will celebrate the birth of US independence – you could say it was our very own Brookxit! If you’re celebrating in our brilliant borough, here are our recommendations.

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For the 40th year, Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks will light up the sky over the East River. Bigger and better than ever, the annual sky spectacular will wow spectators across downtown Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn. From around 9:20pm over 56,000 fireworks will burst forth at a rate of 2,200 per minute. For a good viewing spot you will have to get there early – so pack a picnic and make a day of it. Be prepared to stand or sit on the ground – no chairs or large items are allowed into viewing areas. Brooklyn Bridge Park will be the prime spot, followed by Brooklyn Heights Promenade, or you could head further north to Grand Ferry Park or East River State Park in Williamsburg, or Greenpoint’s WNYC Transmitter Park. Of course if you have any friends with rooftops in the area, now is the time to give them a call! As the highest point in Brooklyn, Sunset Park is also a great option.

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If battling the crowds to see the fireworks isn’t how you’d like to celebrate freedom then there will be plenty of festive-fun on the boardwalk down south at Coney Island. Ride the roller-coaster, play carnival games, enjoy some fried-fare, go swimming or relax on the beach. The now in its 100th year, the famous Nathan’s Annual Hot Dog Eating Competition will chomp-off at 10am. Will anyone beat Joey Chestnut’s world record of 69 franks and buns in 10 minutes? The Coney Island Fireworks kick-off at 9:30pm and while the pyrotechnics are much more low-key than Macy’s, the beach view more than makes up for it!

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Can’t decide who gets your vote for best Independence Day activity? Well our presumptive nominee is Prospect Park! The Prospect Park Alliance has organized a day of free or inexpensive family-friendly activities. Celebrate the holiday with a ride on the Park’s beloved 1912 carousel, from 12-6pm ($2 per ride, $9 for a book of 5 tickets, free with Alliance Family Plus membership). From 1-4pm Lefferts Historic House will celebrate America’s birthday with reproductions of one of the greatest documents ever written, the Declaration of Independence. Make yourself a plumed hat to wear while signing your own “John Hancock” ($3 suggested donation). The Audubon Center will host a free day of nature exploration from 12-4pm with Discovery Packs, bird games and a Citizen Science project.

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It is important to remember that when the Declaration of Independence was signed, African-Americans were still slaves. The 45th Annual International African Arts Festival (IAFF) is a great opportunity to celebrate traditional and contemporary expression of various African cultural art forms. The four-day grassroots cultural festival is a fave of local African-American and Caribbean American Brooklynites. From 10am-9pm, Friday to Monday, Commodore Barry Park in Fort Greene will be transformed into an outdoor African cultural oasis with a Food Court, music and dance performances, a kids play zone, poetry show and more. What started in 1971 as a small vendor market has grown into an African Marketplace with over a hundred vendors offering one-of-a-kind, handcrafted original designs of merchandise ranging from jewelry, fashion, body products imported African fabric, artifacts, furniture, paintings and more. Entry is by suggested donation ($5).

Spread the Christmas Voluncheer

Whether you have a way with meals or understanding how others feel, your time is a much needed resource to Brooklyn charities this Christmas.

So rally up your own Brooklyn brigade and check out local volunteering opportunities to experience the gift that comes with giving back.

CHiPS (Park Slope)

151210 - chipsCHIPS provides over 200 hot, nutritious meals each day and also offers seasonal clothing, emergency pantry items, and shelter for young mothers and their children. Too many cooks only improve the broth at CHiPS as volunteers are needed in the soup kitchen to prepare and portion meals; set up and clean up for meal services; and pack pantry bags for clients to take with them.

Help plant the seeds as a mother’s nature grows at the Frances Residence, above CHiPS. This space offers nine women and their children a safe live and make strides towards independence – learning new job skills and receiving assistance locating permanent housing. Volunteering opportunities are suited for those who can provide assistance with maternal and child health care; career planning; budgeting; nutrition; and overnight supervision (in case of emergencies).

CHiPS volunteer orientations are held twice per month at its 4th Ave site – the second Thursday of each month at 9am and last Thursday of each month at 6pm.

Volunteers are needed 9am to 3pm Monday through Saturday in the soup kitchen; the office; and around the clock at the Frances Residence.


Neighbors Together (Brownsville)

151210 - neighborsFounded in the community for the community in 1982, Neighbors Together initially served those in Ocean Hill, Brownsville and Bedford-Stuyvesant who faced and continue to the increasing challenge of limited access to living wage jobs; affordable housing and health care; and a rise in drugs and drug-related violence.

Neighbors Together could not have grown from 50 soup kitchens and food pantries in New York City to more than 1,200 – serving 1.4 million people a year – without the support from volunteers.

Their contemporary cafe-style space in Brownsville is a beautiful place that connects the dots – allowing clients to eat, connect, and be introduced to other services that help them stabilize their lives. 400 meals are prepared here each day, feeding 10,000 people annually.

Volunteers from all backgrounds can add a pop of color to Neighbors Together by offering assistance with housing, benefits, job training, legal services, health care, and counseling.

Even still, the landscape in New York City is far from picture perfect and volunteers who are part of the Community Action Program will help members advocate for policies that will improve their lives and the lives of their neighbors.

Bread and Life (Bedford-Stuyvesant)

151210 - st johnsKeeping to the beat of boroughly love, St. John’s Bread & Life alleviates hunger in Brooklyn and Queens to the tune of 2,500 meals each day.

The basic needs of good food and nutrition are met with medical (Care for the Homeless), legal (Urban Justice) and employment support to create a harmony of services aimed at helping clients achieve self-sufficiency.

Volunteers are needed year ’round in the Soup Kitchen, Food Pantry, Resource Center and Mobile Soup Kitchen.