The borough’s parades and other festivals may be cut short next year if the city gets its way.
In a last-minute push before the term ends, the Bloomberg administration is proposing forcing budget-lean parade or festival organizers to foot NYPD overtime costs.
It’s an idea Tony Signorile was stunned to hear after a meeting with the NYPD’s Bronx Borough Command, poring over last-minute details for the Bronx Columbus Day Parade, which he organizes.
“If that goes through, I don’t think you’re gonna have any more parades or street fairs,” said Signorile, reporting the news to members of the Morris Park Community Association on Oct. 16.
While the proposal is not set in stone, word of the measure sent jitters down the spines of parade organizers in the Bronx, mostly non-profit community groups who struggle each year to cobble funds from various merchants and elected officials for their events.
As it stands, collecting the roughly $60,000-$80,000 in donations is always the main struggle for Signorile, spending a year asking neighbors, small business owners and elected officials for funds to finance the parade’s insurance, floats and marching bands. The legwork pays off given the thousands of people who stop by the parade.
The overtime issue was problematic for Signorile three years back after the Bloomberg administration forced him to scale back the length of a parade, citing overtime costs. The NYPD was also ordered to reduce the number of parade officers by 15%, said Signorile. He was able to accept the city’s order, though the thought of a fronting the OT bill is taking it a step too far.
The parade is just one of several events that draw thousands of parade goers and extra manpower. On top of the Bronx Columbus Day Parade, extra troops are called in to work the borough’s Puerto Rican Day, Dominican Day, Veteran’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day parades.
“This is going to put a crimp on our budget,” said Lynn Gerbino, a member of the Throggs Neck Homeowners Association, which collects funds needed to operate the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Throggs Neck. The event is considered a business draw for the area merchants along East Tremont Avenue, the designated route for community groups, bagpipers and elected officials march.
NYPD overtime pay runs the gamut, depending on several factors that include rank and years in service.
The recent Bronx Columbus Day Parade, for example, involved nearly 100 officers scattered throughout the route. Officers could work upwards of six hours setting up barricades, manning corners and later clearing barricades.
The total costs could then run $50,000 for community groups should they be responsible for covering the costs.
“I don’t think they can ever afford it,” said one police source. “Economically, I don’t think it’s possible.”
But on top of NYPD costs, the city also foots the sanitation bill that involves workers using a clean-up truck. It’s unclear what the tally is on those costs.
The Mayor’s Office did not respond to requests for comment.