Mayor Bill de Blasio taking part in the Sunnyside St. Pat’s For All Parade in 2015. Photo by Garry Rissman.
By Ray O’Hanlon
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio will end a two-year boycott and march in the upcoming New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
The decision was widely expected.
And the mayor will earlier in the day host the city’s Irish community to breakfast at Gracie Mansion, his official residence.
The Gracie gathering follows a communication last month from the Mayor’s Office of Special Projects and Community Events seeking sponsorship for a mayoral breakfast that would take place at the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue, just ten blocks from St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
The Gracie Mansion venue was, however, confirmed by a release from City Hall yesterday.
Mayor de Blasio’s participation in the Fifth Avenue march coincides with the inclusion in this year’s parade line of march of an Irish LGBT marching group, the Lavender and Green Alliance.
The group, Led by activist Brendan Fay, has for years organized the St. Pat’s For All Parade in Sunnyside, Queens.
Mayor de Blasio has taken part in that parade and today he was scheduled to attend a press conference at the Irish Consulate in Manhattan alongside Mr. Fay, who is a native of Drogheda, Co. Louth.
The mayor’s participation in the city’s main parade was signaled in an interview he gave to the Associated Press.
Today’s press conference was intended to officially confirm his participation.
"The St. Patrick's Day Parade is a New York City tradition, but for years Irish LGBT New Yorkers could not show their pride," de Blasio told the AP.
"Finally, they can celebrate their heritage by marching in a parade that now represents progress and equality."
"Our hearts will be dancing," was Mr. Fay’s reaction to the mayor’s decision.
Mayor de Blasio stayed away from the 2015 parade even though it included an LGBT marching contingent, OUT@NBCUniversal, a group comprised of LGBT employees of WNBC, which broadcasts the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
The mayor welcomed that inclusion, but indicated that he was holding out until a marching group more representative of the city’s Irish community was included.
The Lavender and Green Alliance fits the bill.
In addition to Mayor de Blasio, this year’s parade will also include a contingent from the New York City Council led by Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. The City Council has been boycotting the parade for some years.
Former speaker, Christine Quinn, led the boycott.
Speaker Mark-Viverito will be joined by Council Members including Danny Dromm, who chairs the recently formed Irish Caucus on the council.
"It wasn't truly inclusive until it included an Irish gay group. This allows us to express, in full, who we really are. When you've been excluded for something for so long, when you finally realize your dream is coming true, it's very emotional," said Dromm, who is himself gay.
Mayor de Blasio will march in the early part of the parade with police, firefighters and other unformed services and then later in the afternoon with the Lavender and Green Alliance contingent.
The parade will be led by Grand Marshal Senator George Mitchell and will also be a salute to the centenary of the 1916 Rising.