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St. Patrick’s parades ready to step off in borough

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This Sunday’s 16th annual St. Pat’s for All Parade in Sunnyside will be a homecoming for Steven Malone, the very public face of the Central Park horse-carriage industry, who was born and raised in the neighborhood.

As spokesman for Historical Carriages of Central Park, Malone has been fighting Mayor Bill de Blasio’s attempts to ban carriage horses from the streets.

“It’s an absolute honor to be able to march in the parade,” Malone said. “It will be our first time and hopefully not the last.”

At least 15 carriage owners will fall in behind Malone as he drives his horse-drawn carriage and makes his way along the parade route starting at 2 p.m. at 43rd Street and Skillman Avenue.

“We are also bringing in carriage operators from all over North America for a convention this week, so hopefully we’ll bring along some out-of-towners and give them a look at my hometown,” Malone said.

De Blasio has been invited to march for the second year in a row, but organizers said he has not yet confirmed whether he will attend. City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito (D-Manhattan), who agrees with the mayor’s efforts on the ban, will be there.

“We just want to show them what kind of punch we have in this part of Queens going back to the days of Walter McCaffrey,” Malone said. “If the mayor comes, I’ll welcome him to my neighborhood. I’ll be cordial, but I’ll also let him know that we’re not going to be run out of our neighborhood be it our jobs or our train yards.”

Politics is nothing new at the St. Pat’s for All, which began as a gay-pride parade after LGBT groups were banned from marching under their own banners in the Fifth Avenue parade in 1993.

“When we say we are inclusive, it means we welcome community groups, unions, any and all opinions,” founder Brendan Fay said. “Of course, the Historical Carriages of Central Park is most welcome to march here, most of them are Irish and live in Sunnyside, by the way. I’m sure they will have a lot of support amongst the crowd whether the mayor marches or not.”

The parade has become more of a community event in the last several years, drawing huge crowds. Fay expects at least 2,000spectators on Sunday despite the No. 7 subway being out of service from Times Square to the Broadway-74th St. station in Jackson Heights.

“It continues to grow in popularity because of the support of the neighborhood and its businesses like the Skillman Project and the Sunnyside Boulevard Bars,” Fay said.

The parade will have two grand marshals this year: Kerry Kennedy, who is president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights and one of his daughters, and Brian O’Byrne, a Tony Award-winning actor.

Meanwhile, Steve Cassidy, the president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association of New York, has been named Grand Marshal of the 40th annual Queens County St. Patrick’s Day Parade to be held March 7 in Rockaway Beach. Cassidy leads the nation’s largest local firefighters union, representing 8,100 active and 14,000 retired NYC firefighters. This year marks the FDNY’s 150th anniversary.

“It’s a great honor and privilege to be selected to lead the march,” Cassidy said. “This event and what it means to generations of Americans of Irish heritage can simply not be measured. Our great nation was founded by immigrants, like my Irish grandparents and great grandparents, who came here to work hard and establish a better life for their children. For them to see one of their descendants honored at the head of the parade would bring great joy as it does to me.”

The parade, which attracts up to 50,000 spectators and features a number of marching bands, bagpipes, drummers and more, steps off at 1 p.m. at Beach 129th Street and Newport Avenue. It will continue down Rockaway Beach Boulevard and finish at St. Camillus on Beach 100th Street.

“Steve Cassidy is a prominent Irish labor leader who proudly promotes his Irish heritage and culture,” Queens Parade Committee Chairman Michael Benn said. “Given this is the 150th anniversary of the FDNY and the significant contributions of New York City firefighters across our city and locally, this was a natural selection.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

Posted 12:00 am, February 26, 2015
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