Sunday, February 25, 2024

Staten Island to finally get an LGBT-inclusive St. Patrick's Day parade

Staten Island gets LGBT-inclusive St. Patrick's Day parade

Staten Island is set to have its first-ever LGBT-inclusive St. Patrick’s Day parade on Sunday, March 17, separate from the NYC borough's other, long-running parade that will be hosted this year on Sunday, March 3.

The new Staten Island St. Patrick's Day parade is being organized by the Forest Avenue Business Improvement District (BID), a subset of the Staten Island Business Outreach Center (SIBOC).

“We are overjoyed that the Forest Avenue BID invited us to march in the Forest Avenue St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 17,” Carol Bullock, head of the Pride Center of Staten Island (PCSI), said in a statement on Friday.

“It is wonderful to see that the BID is bringing back togetherness in celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with this parade, a historical staple in the Staten Island community. 

“We are excited to march down Forest Avenue with our Pride Center of Staten Island banner, celebrating Irish Heritage.”

Due to “overwhelming interest” and “some limitations,” PCSI is inviting those who would like to march on March 17 to pre-register online here and await approval.

PSCI's statement comes after Staten Island Advance reported that a permit sought by the Forest Avenue Business Improvement District (BID) for a second St. Patrick's Day parade on Forest Avenue on March 17 had been approved.

This new parade, Staten Island Advance noted, “will be inclusive of all groups.”

The New York Times also reported on Thursday that the office of NYC Mayor Eric Adams approved of the new St. Patrick's Day parade on Staten Island.

“Celebrations in our city should be welcoming and inclusive," a spokesperson for the Mayor told the New York Times.

“Everyone interested — regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, race or beliefs — will be welcome to march together."

Mayor Adams, who boycotted the Staten Island parade in recent years, will attend the new St. Patrick’s Day parade, his office told the New York Times on Thursday. Last year, Mayor Adams attended the PCSI's Rainbow Run, hosted the same day as the parade.

The Staten Island St. Patrick's Day parade has drawn criticism in recent years for not permitting LGBT groups to march, even after the nearby New York City St. Patrick's Day Parade famously did an about-face on the same issue in 2015.

In 2018, Larry Cummings, President of the Staten Island St. Patrick's Day Parade committee, told IrishCentral sister publication Irish Voice: “Our parade is for Irish heritage and culture. It is not a political or sexual identification parade."

Cummings added at the time: “Gays can march, but not under a banner.”

The controversy persisted, with PCSI leading the charge in seeking LGBT inclusion in the parade each year. Their efforts, bolstered by the Gay Officers Action League as well as local politicians, have been unsuccessful to date.

Last year, Michael E. McMahon, the Richmond County District Attorney, penned an open letter explaining why organizers were "standing down" the traditional pre-parade breakfast "in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ groups excluded by the parade’s organizers."

The pre-parade breakfast had been canceled again for 2024, but Staten Island Advance reports that it has now been rescheduled for the morning of March 17, the day of the new, inclusive parade.

“We join the overwhelming majority of our neighbors in expressing our relief at the news that an inclusive St. Patricks’ Day parade will finally be held on Staten Island, and we send our sincere thanks to the West Brighton Business Improvement District for taking on this tremendous responsibility," the Jerome X. O'Donovan Breakfast Chairs DA McMahon, Former Assemblyman Cusick, and former Councilman Mitchell said in a joint statement.

"Accordingly, we will once again host our Jerome X. O’Donovan Breakfast within the friendly confines of Jody’s Club Forest before the Parade steps off on March 17th.

"For 25 years, the Breakfast has represented the best of our politics and of Staten Island, bringing together our colleagues in government from both sides of the aisle and neighbors from across the state and beyond, as we celebrate the many contributions of Irish Americans to our community and nation.

"We look forward to once again donning our green, sharing perhaps a pint of Guinness, and kicking off a St. Patrick's Day Parade on Staten Island that will not exclude participants based on who they are or who they love. 

"While this news is certainly cause for gratitude, we continue to hope that the organizers of the traditional parade welcome all who wish to march on the first Sunday in March.

"We should no longer have the only known parade in the world that excludes people.

"One inclusive parade is what Staten Islanders from Tompkinsville to Tottenville are calling for, and we remain hopeful for that to finally happen."