Many in the crowd held up homemade signs, the New York Daily News reported. One said "Captain Sully, you are a great American hero."
A banner over the podium also described Sullenberger as a hero. But Sullenberger, speaking to the crowd with his wife Lorrie standing by him, was modest.
"Circumstance determined that it was this experienced crew that was scheduled to fly that particular flight on that particular day," he said. "And I know I can speak for the entire crew when I tell you we were simply doing the jobs we were trained to do."
Sullenberger had just taken off from LaGuardia Airport in New York for Charlotte, N.C., when he lost power in both engines. With no time to reach an airfield, he made a controlled landing in the river that gave 155 passengers and crew time to evacuate before the plane sank.
The Airbus A320 is suspected to have hit a flock of geese, causing the engines to fail.
The pilot, 58, lives in Danville, an affluent suburb of San Francisco.