De Blasio, Mark-Viverito march in St. Pat’s for All

Photo by Christina Santucci
By Rich Bockmann

Mayor Bill de Blasio marched in Sunnyside’s St. Pat’s for All Parade Sunday — one day after organizers of Boston’s celebration appeared to have eased their ban on LGBT groups, saying that while it was not easy to start an inclusive event 15 years ago, the idea has caught on.

De Blasio, who had announced he would not participate in the 5th Avenue St. Patrick’s Day Parade because of its ban on groups marching under banners identifying their sexuality, praised the organizers of the Sunnyside parade, saying they understood “it was important to have this, to set the right tone, to set the right path for all of us.”

“This parade is what New York City is all about. This is a parade that celebrates inclusion, diversity [and] unity,” he said. “That is what this city is about. That is what has made this city strong, and when it was started … it wasn’t easy.

Now in its 15th year, the Sunnyside parade was started as a way for those who were banned from participating the 5th Avenue parade to celebrate their Irish pride.

“It wasn’t something people knew would catch on necessarily, but it was the right thing to do, and a lot of times in life you have to start something in the direction of progressive values,” the mayor added. “You have to start a process of change even when it doesn’t look easy and soon, over time, you find that people take to it. They understand this is the right way. They understand that together we can get somewhere.”

Like de Blasio, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh had also announced he would be boycotting his city’s parade unless it allowed LGBT groups to participate. But Saturday organizers appeared to have reached an agreement to allow people to march under the banner of a gay advocacy group, according to several reports, but still upheld the ban on displays of sexual orientation.

Here in New York, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-East Harlem) also said she would skip the 5th Avenue event and prohibited Council members from marching under the Council’s banner, although individual members could participate if they chose to do so.

Mark-Viverito told the Sunnyside crowd, “This is the place to be.”

“This is where I feel at home, a space that includes everyone, that welcomes and embraces everyone,” she said.

De Blasio, who had marched in previous St. Pat’s for All parades as the former city public advocate, even said he was familiar with a popular watering hole in Woodside near the parade’s terminus.

“I also am told there is a great cultural attribute in this parade, that if you walk it you get cold because of the weather … you then get to go to a special establishment called Saints and Sinners, where apparently there is a very restorative Irish coffee among other options,” he said. “So enjoy this parade because it is what is great about this city.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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