New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has made his decision to not march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Where the rest of his administration will fall on the question is still unfolding.
Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty, who is of Irish American heritage, has confirmed that he will likely be marching.
“I’ve marched in a lot of St. Patrick’s Day parades and I’ll probably march in this one too,” he said in a WABC radio interview with Geraldo Rivera on Wednesday morning.
When asked whether he was put off by the exclusion of the LGBT community, Doherty replied, “That hasn’t bothered me. I think that’s something that the parade committee has to address and I’m not going to get involved with that.”
Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Public Advocate Tish James and Comptroller Scott Stringer have declared that they will not be marching in the parade, which does not allow members of the LGBT community to march under their own banner.
Rivera also asked Doherty if he thought de Blasio, who has never attended the parade throughout his years as an elected official, was snubbing the city’s Irish Catholic community.
“He’s doing what he feels is appropriate for himself in his mind,” Doherty answered, “and not everybody’s going to agree with him. There are many, I’m sure, who will agree with him, and there are many that will disagree. But it’s the ability to have free speech and do what you think is right – that’s what’s great about this country.”
A native of Staten Island, Doherty, 75, has spent close to 20 collective years in the job – first under the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations, and now with Mayor de Blasio. He is the city’s longest-serving sanitation commissioner.
He is also one of the few holdovers from the previous administration. Doherty was to retire at the end of Bloomberg’s last term in office, but was asked to stay on a while longer as the de Blasio team’s transition into power coincided with the harshest winter months.
A recent New York Times profile of Doherty casts him as a dedicated civil servant, the kind who will sleep at the office and wake at 3am during a storm to check on clearing efforts across the city. He joined the Sanitation Department as a trash collector in 1960 and worked his way up. In between his terms as commissioner, he and his wife briefly retired to California but returned because they found it “too boring.”
The piece also alludes to a possible tension between the seasoned commissioner and the new mayor, who did not defend him in the face of criticism regarding the city’s response to the recent storms.