New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio marched for the third straight year in the Irish LGBT inclusive St. Pat’s for All Parade in Sunnyside on Sunday. De Blasio announced last week that he would participate in this year’s main Fifth Avenue parade on March 17 after organizers finally permitted the Lavender and Green Alliance, an Irish LGBT group, to march under its own banner.
On the dais near the Queen of Angels Church in Sunnyside on Sunday the mood was jubilant as Christopher Hyland, a member of the New York parade’s St. Patrick’s Foundation, told the crowd, “The progressive side always wins in the end. To remove prejudice and work together is the best way. Happy St. Patrick's Day!”
This year’s St. Pat’s for all grand marshals were philanthropist and promoter of Irish heritage Loretta Brennan Glucksman and award winning Irish novelist Colum McCann. Joining them on the stage was a who's-who of the Queens Democratic Party including Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, New York City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer (a Sunnyside resident with Irish heritage) and Council Member Daniel Dromm, who represents Jackson Heights and Elmhurst and also has Irish heritage.
Brendan Fay, the St. Pat's for All co-chair, told the crowd, “Today we are also celebrating the centenary of 1916 when a small group of Irish women and Irish men rose up with a vision of an independent autonomous and free Ireland. From the GPO they read a Proclamation that included a phrase that is our theme: cherishing all the children of the nation equally.”
Fay noted that the first check in support of the St. Pat’s for All parade was sent by the late Father Mychal Judge, the FDNY chaplain who was the first recorded fatality on September 11, 2001. “We are really proud that the FDNY have been part of our journey for 17 years,” Fay told the Irish Voice.
De Blasio told the crowd that the St. Pat’s for All and Lavender and Green organizers are “a beacon of hope and tell us we are going some place better. Now brothers and sisters, we have arrived at that better place and on March 17, we will be marching together [up] Fifth Avenue all together celebrating the extraordinary heritage of the Irish people.”
On Saturday, the mayor received a reportedly mixed reception at the St. Patrick's Day parade in the Rockaways. In Sunnyside, where he arrived just minutes before the parade stepped off, the welcome was more enthusiastic and the mayor marched carrying an Irish flag and a rainbow flag alongside the Lavender and Green Alliance.
As has become tradition, one apartment window took a dim view of proceedings and posted signs condemning gay people in its in windows. One read “Depraved” and another “Corruption: Not in our faith or parish.”
In an atmosphere of celebration hundreds lined the streets as the sun came out and the parade stepped off just after two o'clock in the afternoon, and no one looked more delighted than parade co-chairs Fay and Kathleen Walsh D'Arcy, who have been at the forefront of this long-running dispute for decades.
The Sunnyside parade will continue even after lifting of the ban on Fifth Avenue, Fay vows. Having become one that welcomes and celebrates all participants (including non-Irish groups) it has sent a powerful message to the wider city about the beauty and strength of inclusion Fay said.
Lavender and Green, meanwhile, has sent out guidelines for those who will march behind its banner on March 17. The group will line up at 3 p.m. at 48th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, and begin to march at 4 p.m.
“In the event that we are subject to ridicule or taunts by the crowd, just ignore and do not respond. Let the parade marshals, formation committee and NYPD handle it,” the instructions said.
“We anticipate a large and wonderful community of LGBT Irish people, their loved ones and supporters, including community organizers, dignitaries and elected officials.”