New York City's long parade season officially kicked off this weekend -- with St. Patrick's Day being celebrated in the Rockaways – and Mayor de Blasio nowhere to be seen.
Hizzoner's decision to skip the annual event in Rockaway was surprising because Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg were regular participants in the parade – which has avoided any of the controversy that the much-larger Manhattan event has been involved with since banning a gay and lesbian group from marching more than two decades ago.
The Rockaway parade feels like something out of a small town but it's the largest annual event in the western end of the peninsula and serves as a rallying point for residents who are sick of the winter and anticipating better weather that's (hopefully) only a couple of months away. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the parade last year became a cathartic rallying point for people who wanted to do something besides gutting their basements and bitch about FEMA.
As Public Advocate – and a mayoral candidate – de Blasio last year marched in the parade as well as City Councilwoman – and candidate for Public Advocate – Tish James. With the election now four months behind them, neither marched on Saturday. City Comptroller Scott Stringer was the only citywide official to march.
De Blasio did take part in a St. Patrick's Day parade in Sunnyside, Queens, on Sunday and then muddied the issue when asked about the Rockaway event, saying: " My approach has been to embrace parades that are inclusive, and that’s the standard we’re going to hold"
A mayoral spokesman later said that de Blasio had misspoken, confusing the Rockaway parade with a parade on Staten Island that does have a history of excluding gay groups, which de Blasio also skipped. NY1's Bobby Cuza was told that the mayor didn't march in the Rockaways for "scheduling reasons" – although the mayor had no public schedule at all that day.
Politically, it's an odd event to skip because the neighborhood is still wounded from the hurricane. But the mayor wouldn't have marched empty handed; he can point to the fact that he recently extended ferry service to the community. And if he's worried about getting booed, the catcalls certainly wouldn't reach the volume level that Bloomberg endured last year when residents were reeling even more from the hurricane's aftereffects.
Kevin Boyle, the tireless editor of Rockaway's weekly paper, The Wave, put the mayor's no-show in perspective, saying of de Blasio: "If he gets to finish the boardwalk before his first term is up, we'll hold another parade and we won't care if he comes then either."
But at least in your first year as mayor, it's probably not a bad idea to attend as many parades as possible. It's relatively easy, you get free exposure as a politician and you really don't have to say much beyond waving and smiling. As Woody Allen says, eighty percent of success is showing up. Outside of the private gated community of Breezy Point, de Blasio hasn't shown up on the West End of the Rockaways in a year. It may be time to buy a new scheduling book.