By Bill Parry
Mayor Bill de Blasio will march in the St. Pat’s For All Parade in Sunnyside March 2, according to City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights). The news came a day after de Blasio said that he would not join the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Fifth Avenue because the events’ sponsor, the Hibernian Order, does not allow gay groups to participate.
“I simply disagree with the organizers of that parade in their exclusion of some individuals in this city,“ de Blasio said during a press event Tuesday.
Dromm welcomed de Blasio to Sunnyside with open arms.
“I am very proud to be marching with the mayor in the St. Pat’s For All Parade here in Queens, an all-inclusive event I helped start 15 years ago,” Dromm said. “St. Pat’s For All embodies the true meaning of the day: that everyone can be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.”
While the parade in Manhattan remains enormously popular drawing over a million spectators to Fifth Avenue every March, it has also been divisive. The Hibernian Order won a court battle in 1993 barring the LGBT community from marching with banners and signs. The mayor said he has never marched in the St. Patrick’s Parade as an elected official. David Dinkins boycotted the parade in ‘93 and ‘94 while Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg marched every year they were in office.
“I am very proud of Mayor de Blasio’s decision to not march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Manhattan,” Dromm said. “Unlike in Ireland, the organizers of the Fifth Avenue parade have discriminated against LGBT people year after year. That is simply unacceptable.”
The 15th annual St. Pat’s For All Parade route runs along Skillman Avenue starting in Sunnyside Gardens and finishing in Woodside, right through the neighborhood of Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside).
“He’s been in our parade before as a Council member and as the public advocate,” Van Bramer said. “I think it’ll be a lot of fun to have him here as mayor. I think that’s terrific.”
Dromm and Van Bramer are the two openly gay member of the Council.
Astoria resident Brendan Fay, the founder and co-chair of the St. Pat’s For All Parade, was thrilled to hear that the mayor would march in Sunnyside.
“Well, that is groundbreaking news — wow!” Fay said. “This is exciting and heartening. We are delighted that the mayor of the city will march with us and as mayor he gets to lead us all in the only all-welcoming and inclusive St. Patrick’s Day parade.”
Dromm helped Fay start the alternative march after years of protests and arrests at the Fifth Avenue parade.
“Unlike the parade on Fifth Avenue, the St. Pat’s for All in Queens welcomes all groups to bring their banners. Hospitality is at the heart of our parade,” Fay said.
Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy, the other co-chair of St. Pat’s for All, said, “How can we work for peace and reconciliation in Ireland but be divided in New York?”
Meanwhile, police officers and firefighters can still participate in the Fifth Avenue parade after a coalition of activists and city officials, including city Public Advocate Letitia James urged the mayor to restrict them from marching in uniform.
“I respect the right of our city workers to march in uniform, period,” the mayor said.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718.260.4538.