Mayor Bill de Blasio’s late appearance at the Rockaway St. Patrick’s Day Parade this weekend may have caused a major uproar, with some parade-goers chanting “Worst mayor ever!”, but it was not the first time New York’s Irish community has been left feeling a little under-prioritized by ‘Hizzoner.’
The following are nine other instances where Mayor de Blasio upset the Irish of New York City.
1. Parade confusion. The mayor may have missed half of the 2015 Rockaway Paddy’s Day celebration by showing up half an hour late, but at least he showed up! In 2014, de Blasio caused a major rift with the Irish of Rockaway when, mistakenly believing the parade prohibited LGBT groups from marching, he boycotted the Rockaway celebration.
At the time, de Blasio’s statement that his “approach has been to embrace parades that are inclusive, and that’s the standard we’re going to hold” was met with confusion, as the Rockaway parade does not have a history of excluding LGBT groups from marching. A mayoral spokesperson later explained that de Blasio had misspoken, confusing the Rockaway parade with the Staten Island parade.
2. Boycotting the 5th Avenue St. Patrick’s Day parade. Last year, Mayor de Blasio became the first mayor in two decades to boycott the Fifth Avenue parade, the main NYC St. Patrick’s Day event, citing the parade committee’s continued exclusion of Irish LGBT groups. There was some optimism this year that, with the inclusion of the group OUT@NBCUniversal, the mayor would march, but he has once again decided to boycott the parade, telling the NY Times, “A lot of people feel, I think rightfully, that that is too small a change to merit a lot of us participating who have wanted to see an inclusive parade.”
3. Failing to appoint a liaison. Previous mayoral administrations have appointed unofficial ethnic liaisons to promote communication between the mayor’s office and the city’s various communities. The de Blasio administration has yet to do this. Last year, Adrian Flannelly, who served as an informal community liaison for Mayors Bloomberg and Dinkins, told the New York Times that de Blasio “really needs advisers as to what’s what. . . . I think he deserves a break for this year. Going forward, there won’t be any excuse.”
4. Carriage horse ban. One of de Blasio’s loudest campaign promises was to put an end to New York City’s carriage horse industry – one largely populated by Irish immigrants and Irish Americans whose work and livelihoods would be destroyed if the carriage horses were banned.
Fulfilling the promise has not been as easy as de Blasio likely assumed it would be, with many City Council members and even Liam Neeson sticking up for the carriage drivers, but it has been a great source of tension.
5. Strained relations with NYPD. De Blasio’s strained relationship with the NYPD, historically populated by many brave Irish Americans, became fraught this winter following the a vicious and fatal shooting attack on two on-duty officers in Brooklyn. Ray Kelly, the Irish American former Police Commissioner, declared that Mayor de Blasio owed the NYPD an apology for the tension between City Hall and the city’s police force.
6. Breakfast debacle. The St. Patrick’s Day breakfast at the mayor’s residence, Gracie Mansion, has long been a highlight of the season for the leaders of New York’s Irish community, the official kick off to a day full of celebrations. In the weeks leading up to St. Patrick’s Day last year, it seemed possible that for the first time in anyone’s recollection, there would be no St. Patrick’s Day breakfast, as de Blasio’s office remained silent on the question. Invitations were issued at the last minute, though the guest list was greatly reduced.
7. Breakfast debacle continued. After being kept on tenterhooks with last year’s breakfast, many leaders in the New York Irish community chalked the lack of communication off to the fact that it was less than three months into de Blasio’s first term as mayor. They were willing to forgive and forget. So there was much consternation when it was revealed this year that the breakfast would go on but would be cut short. “As an ethnic group we’re paddy last,” said one seasoned Irish observer when discussing the mayor’s latest move.
8. Lack of Irish Americans in the de Blasio administration. For the first time in many decades, there are no high-ranking Irish Americans in the mayor’s administration. This has been seen as a blow to the Irish American community, which has seen its numbers decline in recent years, and has likely contributed to the community feeling unheard by those in power.
9. Dashed hopes for an Irish American mayor. For months leading up to the 2013 mayoral elections, many assumed that former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn had it in the bag, as endorsements flooded in from The New York Times, New York Post and The Daily News; from Mayor Bloomberg; from celebs like Liam Neeson; and from many union groups and advocacy groups. It was a shock, then, when Quinn was defeated with only 15.5% of the votes in comparison to de Blasio’s 40.3%.
10. De Blasio has never visited the carriage horse owners despite his pledge to be open and constructive on the issue. Could this be because he has to please some real estate interests who want the stables?
What do you think of Mayor de Blasio’s standing with the Irish community in New York? Share your thoughts in the comment section.