De Niro has lived in the Tribeca area of New York for 20 years
The second Tribeca Film Festival, set up by Robert De Niro to help regenerate lower Manhattan after 11 September 2001, got under way on Thursday.
A host of stars including Angelina Jolie, Kevin Bacon, David Bowie and Jerry Seinfeld turned out for the launch party at New York's State Supreme Courthouse.
The first festival, in 2002, attracted 150,000 people and generated more than $10m (£6.5m) for the local economy, organisers said.
Controversial Oscar-winner Michael Moore, actress Whoopi Goldberg and Queen Noor of Jordan are among those who will judge the awards.
"I just feel that New York needs a festival like this - an event," De Niro said at the launch party.
TRIBECA FESTIVAL JURORS INCLUDE:
Queen Noor of Jordan
"It's not just the film festival, it's everything - it's a community event."
He said the reaction they got made it seem like "the right thing to do".
De Niro, who has lived in Tribeca for 20 years, was planning a festival before 11 September 2001, but said it took on extra significance after the attacks.
This year, the eight-day event will include a concert featuring Norah Jones and a street fair in addition to screenings, panel discussions and seminars.
Independent releases and first- and second-time directors are at the centre of the festival.
Down With Love, starring Ewan McGregor and Renee Zellweger, will get its première at the festival.
Also to be screened will be Nick Broomfield's documentary, Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer and Danny Boyle's thriller 28 Days Later.
Last year, the premières of Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones, About A Boy and Insomnia were held.
When asked why New York should host another major film festival, Whoopi Goldberg answered: "Because we can.
"I mean this is a big city, why only have one when you can have two or three, and show a multitude of wonderful talents?" she said.