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Sequester Budget Cuts Likely Mean The End Of New York City’s ‘Fleet Week’

Memorial Day Week Tradition Is Apparently Thrown Overboard With No Lifejacket
The USS New York passes by the Statue of Liberty. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The USS New York passes by the Statue of Liberty. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — In a surprising announcement, the U.S. Navy has informed New York City officials that federal budget cuts may keep aircraft carriers and destroyers from sailing into New York Harbor for Fleet Week.

The Navy’s jets are expected to be grounded too, ending a 26-year tradition, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported Thursday.

“No branch of the armed forces which, in our case, includes the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard team may participate in community relations or outreach efforts that come at additional cost to the government,” Navy Mid-Atlantic Region spokeswoman Beth Baker told WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond.

In his 12th and final year as mayor, Michael Bloomberg will have to pull a rabbit out of a hat to find a way to celebrate Fleet Week without the fleet.

“Everyone, I think, can recognize and understand and appreciate the support and the patience that the great city of New York is giving us as we really work through some of these difficult situations to try to do as much as we can within what we’re allowed and able to do,” Baker told Diamond.

Baker told 1010 WINS’ Eileen Lehpamer festivities will be scaled back to smaller, local events as ordered by the Department of Defense.

“Whatever we do during the week or the weekend of Memorial Day, that outreach will be done using local assets,”she said.

But besides dulling the Memorial Day celebration, it will have a huge economic impact on the city.

“There definitely is going to be an impact for us, if we’re not having that. We have thousands of cutovers just from the ships and tourists. It’s going to be a big impact. Lots of money, lots of money,” said Monica Aguirre, manager of Daisy May’s BBQ.

GALLERY: Fleet Week 2012 — Parade Of Ships

Daisy May’s is just one block from the West Side piers in Midtown, where in years past, thousands of soldiers, sailors and Marines gathered for a week of Memorial Day shore leave and celebration to honor the work of American servicemen in defending the homeland.

It’s just one of many businesses in the city that will be hurt by the Navy’s decision that sending the fleet to New York City was just not affordable due to the federal budget cuts known as “sequester.”

“We’ll be off; we’ll be off a lot. I’m not saying it just because of the business. It’s just good for the morale of the men, and good for all of the places around here. I just don’t see why they’re doing it. We spend money all over the world. You can’t spend money here in the states for the troops? It’s crazy,” said Tom Hummel of Landmark Tavern in Queens.

Last year, the 25th anniversary of Fleet Week and the bicentennial of the War of 1812, there were among other things nine tall ships, nine Navy aircraft carriers and destroyers and three Marine units just back from a one-year tour in Afghanistan.

It’s a very, very popular part of the tourism life of New York City and the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. It contributes tens of millions of dollars to the economy and millions in city tax revenue.

City and suburban residents were none too pleased when hearing the news.

“That’s horrible. That’s horrible. People enjoy that. It’s like a huge thing all over Twitter. All the girls love it. They want to all go out with the men. It’s a shame that it’s not going to be here,” said Mike Connolly of Staten Island.

“There’s plenty of money to give tax breaks to companies like GE and others that do very well, so this year is a little unfair,” said Jennifer Kupla of South Orange, N.J.

“Oh no. It’s always a fun time out here. Lots of people come out to see it. It’s not going to happen,” said Ward Billeison of Hell’s Kitchen, who lives just down the block from where the soldiers and sailors congregate.

The mayor’s office said it’s still trying to find some way to celebrate, but as of right now, it looks like the May 23 of Fleet Week will find the West Side piers looking much like they looked Thursday — the Intrepid will be there and not much else.

“I think it’s terrible. I look forward to it every year, seeing the soldiers and sailors. I think it will have a big impact on this area, definitely,” said Robin Weisberg of Waldwick, N.J.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Bloomberg said Fleet Week has been a great event for the city and he will continue working with the Navy to try to figure out a way to celebrate the commitment of our service members.

The city is still trying to figure out something, trying to see if some local-based Coast Guard ships can make it, but right now plans are sketchy at best.

Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below …