As always, Morris Park is vigorously excited for this year’s Columbus Day Parade. But some are less excited than usual because of city-mandated cuts to the usual route.
Mayor Bloomberg, in an effort to cut city spending, created an initiative that cuts the budget of all New York City parades by 25% and went into effect on April 1, 2010. As sources were quick to point out, that was just after, and therefore did not affect, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in which Police Commish Ray Kelly was the grand marshal.
With the Bronx Columbus Day Parade specifically, the city has told parade committee president Tony Signorile that the reason for the cuts is that the NYPD cannot afford to pay officers overtime for working the parade.
The parade, which moves down Morris Park Avenue, has always turned left on Williamsbridge Road and gone another four blocks. Due to the cuts, this year’s will instead end when it hits Williamsbridge, at the corner of Williamsbridge and Morris Park Avenue.
“We had a house full of people at our latest meeting complaining about this,” said Al D’Angelo, president of the Morris Park Community Association. “Most were annoyed at the Mayor, why would he do this to Morris Park, all that. People feel snubbed.”
Most angry of all are the merchants that have businesses on Williamsbridge Road. In years past, they benefitted from the parade going by, and now they’ll miss out.
“Carvel, G & R Deli, Enrico’s, Sorrento, they will all be cut, and they’re usually very crowded that day,” said D’Angelo. “So the biggest impact is to small businesses. Why can’t they just turn and go up the three blocks as they’ve always done? Police will have to close Williamsbridge anyway.”
D’Angelo said that in his judgment, the city is always claiming to support small businesses, but this move clearly hurts them. He also felt that other major parades did not receive severe cuts, and takes this as an insult to Bronx Italians.
Community Board 11 district manager John Fratta agrees about the damage to businesses, but understands the need for the city to cut costs. He said that he and CB 11 member Joe Bombace worked hard with local officials, including Councilman Jimmy Vacca and Senator Jeff Klein, to fight the cuts. But the city did not budge.
“The merchants on Williamsbridge are very angry, and I don’t blame them,” said Fratta. “But if we were to cut it the other way, the merchants on the west end of Morris Park Avenue would have been upset.”
Bombace expressed understanding as well, though he was disappointed. “I think there were more technicalities with our parade, because our route covers a lot of residential and commercial areas,” he reasoned. “I understand the ill feelings from merchants on Williamsbridge Road. But even with the cuts, it’s a great day for the community.”
D’Angelo believes the best argument for why the cuts are unnecessary is that the parade has always been a safe one and does not need a large police presence. “The Mayor’s been here a bunch of times, he’s seen the parade we have,” said D’Angelo. “People come out and spend time with their families, then they go home. There’s never been a problem with traffic or police issues, so if they don’t want to pay overtime to police that’s fine, we don’t need the police presence.
“If a parade is a problem,” D’Angelo continued, “and you need police presence, I understand it. They have some parades in the city that are bloodbaths and have stabbings. But at our parades, the police stand around and do nothing because there’s no crowd-control problem. We don’t even have a jaywalking ticket handed out.”
Even with a few less blocks, the parade will go off as usual on Sunday, October 10.
In advance of the celebration will also be the annual dinner dance on Friday, October 1.
“It’s outrageous,” said Senator Klein, “that one of the largest and most vibrant Columbus Day celebrations in the city is being scaled back.”
The community agrees, but the show must go on.
In happier news, when parade organizers weren’t lamenting the cuts this week, they found time to choose this year’s Miss Columbus: it’ll be Cardinal Spellman senior Kristen Marie Carew.