BELLE HARBOR — Hundreds filled the streets at the Queens County St. Patrick's Day parade Saturday, the first major celebration on the Rockaways peninsula after it was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy in late October.
Helmed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the march kicked off at 1 p.m., from Newport Avenue and Beach 130th Street, and moved in a glorious glow of green shamrocks and bagpipe blasts down a nearly 2-mile route towards Shore Front Parkway.
The streets were swarming with Rockaways residents and New Yorkers from all over on Saturday, many of them showing signs of Irish pride or donning messages about the hurricane recovery.
Signs both congratulated the work of the city on cleanup, like one that read: "DOS [Sanitation] You Rocked Sandy," while others criticized the administration, such as one that read "Mr. Mayor Listen to Rockaway."
Some residents booed the mayor as he marched by, showing an audible sign of rejection that some in the Rockaways claimed he showed the area following the storm.
For many of the parade's attendees, though, it was simply an opportunity to feel the joy of living in a close-knit community that had survived.
Parade organizer Michael Benn said earlier in the week that it had been a hard year to find donations for the privately funded parade, since so many local businesses were struggling with losses from Sandy.
"Everyone was greatly impacted," he told the Times Ledger. But a fundraiser in the weeks leading up to the parade helped them close the gap, he said.
"Today's parade is very special," said Ken Pero, 63, a retired postal worker and a local resident. "It's like a new beginning for us, a rebirth of the community after the storm."
Rockaway Beach resident Prescilla Porter, 31, was enjoying the parade with her 5-year-old daughter Victoria. "This is a very special day for the Rockaway Beach community. It's wonderful to see us all come together," she said.
"It's a beautiful day for everyone."