He was freed from prison in Myanmar and flew to Qatar on Monday, following negotiations between former U.S. diplomat Bill Richardson and the ruling military junta.
Fenster, 37, the managing editor of independent online magazine Frontier Myanmar, looked frail three days after he was sentenced to 11 years in prison for incitement and violations of laws on immigration and unlawful assembly. He had been detained since May.
"It's about this right here," he said as he hugged and posed with his family, including father, Buddy, mother, Rose, and brother, Brian.
All were on hand at the TWA terminal at JFK Airport when the car pulled up carrying Fenster and Richardson.
The United Nations hailed Fenster's release as a "positive step" but called for at least 47 other journalists in detention to be freed immediately, U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said in New York.