Mayor Mike Bloomberg said last week that he will be joining the ranks of the Queens St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which allows lesbian and gay groups to participate, unlike its Manhattan counterpart.
Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani was invited to the Queens parade while he was in office, but never showed up. Bloomberg will be the first mayor to march in the Queens parade, which will take place March 3rd in Sunnyside.
“It reflects a new moment in our city,” said Brendan Fay, founder and 2002 co-chair of the Queens St. Patrick’s Day Parade. “It’s indicative of his leadership that seeks to be more inclusive.”
Besides Bloomberg, New York State Senator Thomas Duane, New York City Comptroller William Thompson, Assemblymember Brian McLaughlin and Borough President Helen Marshall are also scheduled to march in the Queens parade, as are City Councilmembers Hiram Monserrate, Eric Gioia, Christine Quinn and John Liu.
The Queens St. Patrick’s Day Parade first took to the streets in March 2000.
“We thought it was important that here in the city there be a St. Patrick’s Day parade in which everyone would be welcome, and would have the opportunity to celebrate their Irish heritage,” said Fay, who is openly homosexual.
Unable to march in the Catholic-based St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Manhattan, Fay decided to start a separate parade that would be open to all, including homosexual people and those who belong to religions other than Catholicism.
Fay said he also wanted to create a parade that’s Queens-based. “We gathered three years ago, and we said, “Here we are in Queens, the largest concentration of Irish are in this borough, it’s a wonderful borough. Let’s work and create a parade,” Fay recalled.
The line of march for the 2002 Queens St. Patrick’s Day Parade will include several groups that had previously been excluded from the Manhattan celebration, now in its 240th year.
One is the Lavender and Green Alliance, an organization of Irish, homosexual people also founded by Fay in 1988. He currently serves as president of the group.
Before the Queens St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Lavender and Green had sought to participate in similar parades in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx, but was denied, said Tom Moulton, who is treasurer for Lavender and Green.
“I don’t see why it’s a big deal. Most Irish don’t care that gay Irish march,” Moulton said, adding that it’s just the minority who control the different St. Patrick’s parades in the city who feel strongly against including homosexuals.
Moulton said about 10 people from a membership of 20 will be representing Lavender and Green in the Queens parade.
Besides Lavender and Green, the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization will be marching in this borough, as well as the Queens Parents, Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays.
P-FFLAG, as the group is known, will be marching in honor of its founder, Carmel Tavadia, who was an Irish immigrant, Fay said.
Besides homosexual organizations, which Fay said made up about 10 percent of the marchers in last year’s parade, religious groups who also have been excluded from the Manhattan parade will be marching in Queens.
Representatives from Irish Protestant, Irish Methodist and Irish Quaker congregations will be in the parade ranks, as will members of a Jewish synagogue.
“The Hibernians (the Catholic group that holds the Manhattan St. Patrick’s Day Parade) excluded many groups,” Fay said. He said Irish people on wheelchairs or otherwise handicapped were also turned away by the Hibernians until the early nineties.
St. Patrick’s Day, a national holiday in Ireland, honors the 5th-century missionary who is credited with converting Ireland to Christianity. It is celebrated each year on March 17th, especially by Irish Americans, according to the Web site of an Irish group.
In last year’s Queens St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which took place under sleet and rain, Fay said about 1,000 people marched, and some 1,500 spectators were cheering from the sidewalks.
The 2002 Queens parade is dedicated to Father Mychal Judge, the Irish chaplain for the New York Fire Department killed in the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
“Mychal was deeply concerned that we find new ways to build bridges with each other whether in Belfast or New York,” said Fay, adding “He was a keen supporter of the inclusive spirit of the Queens parade.”