From the desk of Fourth Ward Councilman Tim Occhipinti:=&0=& =&1=& With this Saturday being the traditional date for Hoboken’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, Councilman Tim Occhipinti expressed extreme disappointment that Mayor Dawn Zimmer cancelled the historic parade…again.
“The St. Patrick’s parade is a piece of Hoboken’s history that celebrates the contributions of Irish Americans to our great city and a day that was enjoyed by families and visitors alike,” said Occhipinti. “This year, a parade would have been a golden opportunity to show the strength and resilience of our community, and that Hoboken is back post-Sandy. It would have been a big help to local businesses, and a boost to our city’s morale.”
For a quarter-century, Hoboken held a parade along Washington Street on the first Saturday of March. For 25 years, children, seniors and families lined the street as Hoboken kicked off St. Patrick’s Day celebrations around the state. The event drew U.S. Senators, Congressmen, Governors, TV stars and national media outlets, but the true luminaries were the countless Hobokenites who were honored by the parade committee. The event brought in revenue for local businesses – not just bars and restaurants, but also everything from bagel stores and bodegas to pizza parlors and novelty stores.
For the second year in a row, the historic event was cancelled after Mayor Zimmer tried forcing the parade committee to move the event to a Wednesday evening. The various bands, piper groups and organizations that make the parade such a great event would not be able to participate on a weeknight. The parade committee said it best, “The idea of marching in a parade, in the dark, on a week night, is as insulting as it is unreasonable.”
The City will incur the same costs associated with “Leprecon Day” as traditionally were spent on the parade. This amounts to approximately $100,000 in overtime costs for public safety, sanitation, etc. – without any offsetting revenue. So now, rather than the historic St. Patrick’s Day that families can enjoy – which includes a parade celebrating Hoboken’s rich diversity and saluting the Irish community – there is instead an unofficial “Leprecon” event. But, this is merely a “pub crawl” organized by locals and without any of the cultural significance of a parade. In other words, the controversial alcohol-focused portion of the day remains and the city pays for it, while Mayor Zimmer, again, unreasonably forces the cultural, historical and civic-minded parts of the day to all be scuttled.
Councilman Occhipinti believes the role of government is to come up with a safe and proper plan to bring back the Hoboken St. Patrick’s Day Parade on the first Saturday in March. Shutting down the family-oriented portion and ostracizing Irish-Americans is not the answer. The success of The Mumford & Sons – which had 15,000 participants – shows that when motivated, this city can succeed at controlling events in a non-residential area with proper planning. The parade committee should contribute, corporate sponsorships should be sought, and public safety should be the number one concern.
If there was ever a time to show that Hoboken is thriving, to create buzz for the city and to bring additional revenue our local businesses…it is right now. For example, in Monmouth County, this year’s Belmar St. Patrick’s Day Parade is a celebration of the Shore.
“This year, we should be marching to show that we are Hoboken Strong,” added Councilman Occhipinti. “We’re losing a prime chance to show the state – and the world – that Sandy may have knocked our city down, but we’re back on our feet, open for business, and ready to be better than ever.”
Councilman Occhipinti believes that – with proper planning, organization, coordination with regional law enforcement agencies, and input from local businesses – Hoboken’s government can help create a fun, safe and lucrative event for residents, families and visitors to enjoy. Local leadership should be able to come up with a plan that takes safety into account and works with the parade committee. Forcing the parade to move to a weeknight, but allowing the pub crawl to continue is a slap in the face to the good people who plan, march and enjoy this event, as well as the families and businesses who are left out in the cold.