Stars align for Little Neck parade

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Black SUVs challenged fire trucks for space and the star power shined nearly as bright as the radiant sun at the Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade Monday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Mayor Michael Bloomberg all marched down Northern Boulevard in the borough’s final and most spectacular parade of the weekend.

Bloomberg wore a long-sleeved, yellow shirt and khakis as he walked at a leisurely pace alongside City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) and Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan).

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and state Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside), along with their contingent, waited on a side street for Cuomo, a former Douglas Manor denizen, to join the parade.

Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck) and his brother, Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens), both walked and waved. Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing), state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone), city Comptroller John Liu, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), city Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Borough President Helen Marshall all made a showing for the day’s grandiose event.

Schumer said he thought back to the days after 9/11 and called the killing of Osama bin Laden a “turning point” in the war on terrorism.

“On a day like today, we remember it’s the bravery of our soldiers that makes us prevail,” he said.

Nathan Abel, a midshipman from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Great Neck, L.I., said the part that registered with him most was seeing the parade’s grand marshal, Maj. Gen. William Waff.

Waff is the commanding general of the 99th Regional Support Command of the U.S. Army Reserve, which includes the New England and mid-Atlantic states.

“I listened to his speech yesterday,” said the midshipman from Arizona, who was visiting the parade with his sponsor family. “He’s an excellent man who really cares about what he does.”

World War II veteran Joe Miceli said he offered a prayer at the interfaith reception at St. Anastasia’s Church earlier in the day.

“I hope and pray that all of our troops come home soon,” he said. “That’s my wish and I think it’s everyone else’s wish.”

Both New York City and Nassau County were well-represented with groups ranging from the Girl Scouts to Emerald Society police marching bands to volunteer ambulance corps.

Charlie Lercara, an 84-year-old lieutenant colonel, stood to salute the flag as it passed the spot he was sitting on with his wife.

“You have to respect the flag and respect those who died,” he said.

Lercara said he normally attends the parade in Manhattan, but this year he came out to watch his granddaughter Sharinne, who was marching with the Flushing High School Honor Guard.

Under the day’s glaring sun, the 7-11 on the corner of Northern Boulevard and Willow Street was awash with the green uniforms of the honor guard, as the youths refreshed themselves with cold drinks.

Manvere Singh said the parade was his second of the weekend. The ninth-grader said that over the course of two days the honor Guard was split into various battalions, depending on where its members lived — but for the Little Neck-Douglaston parade, the entire group came together to march as one battalion.

“It feels great to be marching here together,” he said.

This was Singh’s first year in the guard.

“Be prepared for the heat” was the advice fellow members gave him.

Tom Focigna stood at the end of the route of the parade, which was looked on by thousands, in his Army uniform. The World War II veteran said his military training had helped him deal with the day’s heat.

Pointing up the boulevard he said, “It’s all downhill anyway!”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Updated 10:33 am, October 12, 2011
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