By Tara Kyle
LITTLY ITALY —Despite concerns from San Gennaro foes that a scheduled 'Unity Rally' was designed to intimidate shopkeepers, the only commotion Saturday came in the form of exploding confetti canisters.
Flanked by NYPD officers on foot and in patrol cars, a smaller than anticipated crowd of around 200 marched along Mulberry Street from Canal to Spring Streets. Many carried Italian and U.S. flags and wore white t-shirts emblazoned with the Unity Rally.
The rally had originated as a protest against the wish of some NoLita boutique owners to cut the Feast of San Gennaro off at Kenmare Street. But after the Mayor's Office announced that the 11-day event would continue to run all the way to Houston, organizers changed the focus to a show of unity.
"We did win the battle, but not the war," said organizer Danny Fratta, 31, a fourth generation vendor at the Feast. "With all the newcomers coming in, little by little, it seems like they're taking away what New York originally was."
One attendee Saturday was Gina Fontana, 55, who said she spent much of her childhood roller skating around Little Italy.
"I'm appalled that they suggested the Feast should end at Kenmare," Fontana said. "People all around the world know about this festival... they had no right to even think, 'make it smaller, make it this, make it that.'"
Speaking at the procession's end, St. Patrick's Old Cathedral Monsignor Donald Sakano asked attendees to not only celebrate the preserved Feast plan, but also take the opportunity to remember the many neighborhood residents killed in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire 100 years ago.
"Italians, as you know," Sakano said, "we're well known for expressing our emotions that show both our joys and sorrows."