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City Should Give St. Patrick's Day Parade Extension a Shot

By Murray Weiss | February 15, 2011 5:53pm
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly  and Mayor Michael Bloomberg march up Fifth Avenue in the St. Patrick's Day Parade on March 17, 2007 in New York City.
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Mayor Michael Bloomberg march up Fifth Avenue in the St. Patrick's Day Parade on March 17, 2007 in New York City.
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Michael Nagle/Getty Images

By Murray Weiss

DNAinfo Contributing Columnist

Nearly one year ago to the day, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly announced that the city was so hard up for money that it was scaling back on the time and distance of parades to save $3 million on officers and overtime.

There was one exception: the St. Patrick's Day Parade.

Kelly said the decision to rain on everyone else's parade was because the NYPD hadn't provided St. Patrick's parade organizers enough time to alter their Fifth Avenue march. So, the luck of the Irish would shine on for one more year.

Coincidentally, the Grand Marshall last year was ... Raymond Kelly.

The commissioner said his presence at the head of the parade played no role in the NYPD’s decision making.

"Reducing the length and duration of parades across the board is a sensible way to save money ... and a far better choice than having to further reduce the size of the Police Department," former Deputy Mayor Ed Skyler said back then. "The mayor has made it clear that New Yorkers can't afford a tax increase now."

Fast forward one year.

Parade organizers have been pushing for another dispensation. The newly-shortened parade is supposed to end at East 79th Street, instead of the traditional finish at East 86th Street. That's one block short of the American Irish Historical Society's Fifth Avenue headquarters.

It's also the 250th anniversary of the parade.

This poses a real conundrum for Kelly, and for Mayor Michael Bloomberg whose luck with the Irish ran out earlier this month.

At an event last week at the American Irish Historical Society, Bloomberg "joked" that the society was home to drunks "hanging out the window" during the parade.

"Normally when I walk by this building there are a bunch of people that are totally inebriated hanging out the window, I know that a stereotype about the Irish, but nevertheless we Jews around the corner think this," the mayor said.

The remark is still reverberating, and now the frequently unaccommodating NYPD says it is discussing trying to mollify the Irish leadership. Talks of a compromise of ending the parade at East 81st Street are underway, the Irish Voice reported.

Back in the day, I knew a famous radio reporter who, in the dead of night, went out onto Fifth Avenue and illegally painted the first green line. Now, its tradition!

I have also hoisted enough drinks with Irish New Yorkers – and maybe even hung out a window or two, I can’t recall – to think the city should relax the rules.

Their decision, however, is more complicated.

The NYPD, Kelly and Bloomberg have always maintained that they're handcuffed in making exceptions to city rules. They know another break for St. Patrick's Day will aggravate other parade organizers who didn't get such special treatment.

Making matters worse is the fact that the mayor has been screaming about budget shortfalls, pension reform and laying off thousands of teachers.

Perhaps a sober endgame could include parade organizers paying more money to offset the tens of thousands of dollars each additional block will cost the city in security and overtime.

The police officials say no decision has been made. No matter how this goes, one thing is clear: The mayor's Irish gaffe is the latest in string of mayoral woes, starting with the blizzard disaster and his bizarre decision to hire private eyes in Arizona to captialize on the Tuscon shooting massacre.

The curse of the third term mayor appears already in full bloom.

So, here’s to you, Mr. Mayor! And may the luck of Irish be with you.