A move by New York City aimed at cutting the time and marching distance of the city's parades looks set to cut directly across the ambitious plans for the 250th anniversary New York St. Patrick's Day parade just over a year from now.
The new rules, being brought into line by the NYPD with the backing of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, are intended to save money at a time when the city is strapped for cash.
"The NYPD ordered parade organizers across the city Monday to shorten their traditional routes by 25 percent and to keep their marches to under five hours," the Daily News reported Tuesday.
"The stunning move, backed by Mayor Bloomberg, will mean major changes for some of the city's biggest and best-known celebrations," the report added.
In this, the News report was referring to the West Indian Day Parade, Puerto Rico Day Parade, and the Gay Pride Parade.
"All three usually last longer than five hours. But even the ones that start and end in fewer than five - like the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade - will have to adhere to the shorten-your-route edict.
"The order goes into effect April 1, meaning next month's St. Patrick's Day Parade - which Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly will lead as grand marshal - will not be affected this year."
The report had NYPD Deputy Commissioner, Paul Browne, explaining that the decision to put the changes into effect on April 1 had nothing to do with Commissioner Kelly leading this year's St. Patrick's Day march up Fifth Avenue.
Rather, Browne said, it would have been unfair to spring the changes on the organizers of that parade so close to the actual event.
The changes, however, will come into force for the 2011 parade, a march that the New York parade committee has been talking up for several years.
In a release, the NYPD outlined its reasoning for the changes: "Faced with budget constraints, the NYPD needed to cut $6.5 million from the approximately $36 million spent on parades and other planned events annually.
"We will save $3.1 million of that goal between April 1, 2010 and March 31, 2011 by reducing the length of parades by approximately 25 percent and limiting them in duration to five hours.
"It would have given insufficient notice to include the St. Patrick's Day parade three weeks from now. It will be included next March."
As things stand, the St. Patrick's Day Parade steps off at 11 a.m. and is rarely finished after five hours. Indeed, parades in excess of six and even close to seven hours in duration are familiar to parade fans.
The present route is already a shortened one. Until recent years, the march went from 44th Street up to 86th Street and then along 86th. Now it ends at 86th and Fifth Avenue.
Rather than get smaller, the parade has also added more marching units in recent years and there is a long list of organizations wanting to take part in the parade, the only one in New York that commands a date, March 17th, as opposed to just a weekend time slot.