It started with a low rumble that sounded like faraway crowd noise coming from a football stadium. Then came the loud honking of car horns. Some people dashed out of their apartments and began dancing in the streets, joined by others who banged on pots and pans. One man popped open a bottle of champagne in the middle of a Brooklyn block.
The response recalled the cheers for essential workers that had broken out in the first months of the pandemic at 7 p.m. every night in the city. But the celebration lasted for many hours, well into the night, as people poured into the city’s parks and squares on an unexpectedly warm fall day that seemed to fuel the festive mood.
“I feel like I’ve been holding my breath,” Justin Oakley, 30, a web developer, said as rejoicing rippled through Prospect Park in Brooklyn. “We’ve been through so much, the city has been through so much this year, I’ve been to so many protests. But now it’s like, ah, finally, something to celebrate.”
“The fight isn’t over,” Mr. Oakley added. “But man, this feels good right now.”
Nearby, a runner screamed, “Oh my God, oh my God, I don’t believe it!,” stopping dead in her tracks as she saw the news come across her phone.
“Believe it, believe it!” a cyclist yelled, ringing his bike bell as hundreds of people in the park burst out clapping and hollering.
Kevin La Moureaux, 26, a medical student at the Brooklyn Hospital Center, was propping himself up on a light pole on Flatbush Avenue in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, as he shouted “Let’s go!” to the drivers honking their horns.
“I’m a registered Republican; this is the first time I’ve ever voted for a Democrat and it feels so good,” Mr. La Moureaux said. “I just want normalcy. I just want civility.”
Thousands of people poured into Times Square, where waves of cheering crashed through the crowd again and again. “U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” people shouted. Another popular chant that echoed through the square: “Trump, you’re fired!”
Cristina Diaz, 18, a freshman at Manhattan College in the Bronx who moved to New York from Georgia this year, stood on the sidewalk beaming through her coronavirus face mask. She and her friend Maddie Siefert, 18, had left the dining hall on campus and rushed to Times Square to join in the celebration. Ms. Diaz said she was proud of the role her home state played in denying President Trump a second term.
“Georgia had been red for so long and now it is like a dream come true,” Ms. Diaz said.
Mr. Trump is a native New Yorker who rose to success in the city’s real estate industry, but is very unpopular in most, but not all, of the city.
In Columbus Circle, thousands of people who had gathered for a protest march spilled onto the street, singing, dancing and waving flags at the foot of the Trump International Hotel. The planned march, which was to demand a full count of every legal ballot, quickly became a party.
Sound systems blared “We Are the Champions,” by Queen, and “Bye Bye Bye” by ’N Sync. Some drivers got out of their cars to dance and take pictures.
In many of the city’s liberal neighborhoods, including the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Greenwich Village and the brownstone neighborhoods of Brooklyn, the partying in the streets continued into the night.
A big crowd danced in front of Barclays Center in Downtown Brooklyn, where Senator Chuck Schumer, who lives in Park Slope, joined them. An aide said Mr. Schumer held up his phone during a conversation with Mr. Biden and Speaker Nancy Pelosi so that they could hear the cheers.
People assembled near Trump Tower to cheer his defeat. One man walked along the street with a cardboard sign that read, “You’re fired.” Another man waved an American flag.
Bassema Yousef, 37, a management consultant, waved a “We Are The People” poster that depicted a woman in a hijab. She bought the poster in 2017, she said, after Mr. Trump banned travelers from seven predominantly Muslim nations and had kept it in anticipation of the day the president would leave office.
“As a woman of color, as a Muslim American, I’m tired of feeling like the foreign ‘other’,” she said. “Joe Biden is going to help us heal.”
Not everyone seemed to share in the excitement.
The mood was more subdued at a construction site near Hudson Yards in Manhattan. Construction workers stared at their phones with a hint of disappointment. Others walked away shaking their heads in disbelief.
“I had co-workers calling me who voted for Trump going crazy,” said John Rodin, 25. “Every Trump person I know said it was rigged. Every single one. My job site was very disappointed for him to win. Everybody wanted Trump.”
In Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, Louis DeMarco, 71, and Andy Feinstein, 60, were struggling to accept that Mr. Biden managed to become the first candidate to beat an incumbent in more than a quarter century.
“I’m not happy about the outcome, I voted for Trump,” said Mr. Feinstein, a retired electrician, who strolled near the beach shirtless. “I feel Trump is very obnoxious and turns people off with what he says, but he’s the better man for the job.”
“Life goes on,” Mr. Feinstein added with a hint of resignation. “He’s not the first candidate I voted for who didn’t get picked.”
But in Inwood, at the northernmost tip of Manhattan, celebrations started almost instantly.
Windows above the streets were lifted open as residents cheered, banged pots and pans, and expressed relief and happiness. Cars stretching down Broadway honked and drivers lifted raised fists out their windows. Some passengers banged the side of car doors.
True to neighborhood fashion, dirt bikes and motorcycles revved their engines through intersections and the same bells, pans and whistles that were used during the 7 p.m. cheer for essential worker were now brought to the streets.
Robert and Maya Kite heard the cheers from their window, checked their phones and immediately began to celebrate.
They put their two daughters, ages 3 and 6, in sundresses, grabbed a tiny pot, a tiny strainer and two wooden spoons to bang them, and headed to the intersection of Broadway and Dyckman, where hundreds had gathered.
“We heard the sound, the screaming and we immediately assumed what the news was,” said Ms. Kite, 33. “I feel elated and that there’s hope in a way that there wasn’t before.”
Mr. Kite added: “Having lived in these neighborhoods in New York through the crisis, we’d always hear the sirens going off during Covid. It was visceral to all of us. And to know that a president is going to take that seriously now means a lot to us. I mean, how many people died in these very neighborhoods?”
Throughout Williamsburg, Brooklyn, residents ran to their front porches and balconies to ring bells and bash pots and pans. The sounds of car horns honked and whoops and shouts of “we did it” filled the air. Someone blasted the song “Y.M.C.A.”
Carrie Salter, 62, an architectural designer, danced on South 3rd Street as she gazed around at people celebrating. “Oh, my God, all the stress has been released from my body, I just feel calm again. My brain is opening again.”
In Manhattan, Stella Voight, 68, who was with a group awaiting to hike in Inwood Hill Park, said: “I started crying when I heard this news. I feel emotional. I’m a teacher in the city, and I thought of the children.”
For many, the election of Senator Kamala Harris to the vice presidency, a historic moment, was also a cause for joy.
Eileene Vicencio, 29, said seeing Ms. Harris, the daughter of a Jamaican father and an Indian mother, ascend to such a high office was “moving” and felt “unreal.”
“The fact that she’ll be in the White House is giant,” she said. “It’s so much bigger than her.”
Still, beneath the celebration on New York’s streets ran a current of worry: The vote was so close in so many battleground states, and many of Mr. Biden’s supporters recognized that the political battle with people who agree with Mr. Trump on major issues was far from over.
For Lauren Whitehead, 33, who is Black, the race demonstrated to her “how divided the country is,” something she said she found “heartbreaking.”
“It’s a reality we already knew but it’s now even clearer,” she said. “But to see that we’ve hit another milestone despite all that with a woman of color in office. It’s incredible.”
The celebrations went into the night. In Washington Square Park in Manhattan, some shared bottles of champagne with strangers, or waved Biden-Harris flags.
But on benches, others sat quietly and listened to Mr. Biden’s and Ms. Harris’s speeches via earbuds and loudspeakers.
Adeline Henderson, 46, split a pair of earbuds with her partner.
“We kept the faith and the patience Biden asked us for,” Ms. Henderson said. “With the weather today, I thought, ‘Today’s sunshine is going to bring some good news.’”
She said that as a Black woman and mother of Black daughters, she found Ms. Harris’s words “very empowering.”
On another bench, Jesell Castillo, 45, and her husband, Reinaldo Laureano, 45, listened to the speeches on a Bluetooth speaker.
Ms. Castillo began celebrating by banging on a pot outside her window in Bushwick, and came into Manhattan with Mr. Laureano later in the evening to join the crowds.
Mr. Laureano said it felt as if Mr. Biden would look out for all Americans.
“He’s going to unite America, and that’s what we need right now: stability in the White House,” he said.
Reporting was contributed by Maggie Astor, Troy Closson, Carla Correa, Juliana Kim, Derek M. Norman, Irene Plagianos, Amanda Rosa, Nate Schweber, Liam Stack and Ali Watkins.