The Bloomberg administration, in an effort to cut police and sanitation costs, has insisted on a shortened New York City St. Patrick's Day parade for 2011, the Irish Voice has learned.
The parade normally ends at 86th Street and Fifth Avenue, but city authorities say it must end this year at 79th Street and Fifth. The parade traditionally kicks off in the morning on West 44th Street and Fifth Avenue.
However, parade officials were determined to have the parade the same length as always this year, given that it is the 250th anniversary of the march, a major milestone.
A compromise that would take the parade past the American Irish Historical Society, the last major viewing area, at 81st Street and Fifth Avenue, and then turn right is in the works, the Irish Voice has learned.
The city announced last year that it was shortening all city parades to save money from April 1 of 2010. The St. Patrick's Day parade which was led up Fifth Avenue by New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly in 2010 was the last major parade under the old rules.
In February of last year the city announced that the many parades conducted each year needed to cut the distances they cover by 25% -- and they could not be more than five hours long.
The city said such moves would save $3.1 million and would avoid "cuts in essential police services."
However, the parade leadership is said to have argued strongly for the existing length of the parade to stay in place, pointing out the huge economic benefit to the city of the parade and its history as among the largest marches in the world.
Organizers are also mindful of recent efforts to switch the parade to a weekend day, and fear a "slippery slope" as one parade official said.
Turning off at an earlier side street may present logistical problems, however, as 86th Street is a much wider avenue for the tens of thousands of participants to navigate.
A spokesperson for the NYPD contacted by the Irish Voice would neither confirm nor deny the new shortened parade route.
Author Mary Higgins Clark is set to lead the parade as grand marshal. It is expected that she will lead the parade on its two mile-plus march up Fifth Avenue by using a horse and carriage.
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