The parade is off and the party is on -- so on that the square-mile city of Hoboken (9609MF), New Jersey, is boosting the number of portable toilets for a crush of thousands paying tipsy tribute to St. Patrick.
Organizers in January canceled the march after Mayor Dawn Zimmer said it would have to take place on a weekday, rather than the first Saturday in March, to cut down on misbehavior. The parade of step dancers and bagpipers, a 25-year tradition in the city of about 50,000 across the Hudson River from Manhattan, was followed by fighting, public urination and property damage. Last year, two sexual assaults were reported.
The plan now: delayed bar openings, police from more than a dozen nearby departments, a zero-tolerance policy for public- safety violations and 60 portable toilets, “50 percent more than in past years,” according to the city’s website.
“We’re preparing for thousands of people,” Juan Melli, a spokesman for Zimmer, said in a telephone interview today. “We’re trying to be as proactive as possible. It’s difficult to predict exactly what will happen.”
Hoboken Lepre-Con, a group selling themed T-shirts and working to steer crowds to bars offering specials, has more than 18,000 people on Facebook saying they’re going tomorrow.
“We’ve seen how people can get out of hand and act foolish,” Jamie Darrah, 26, a Lepre-Con co-organizer and city resident, said in a telephone interview. “We’ve dealt with people peeing in the street. There’s going to be some people that act stupid. We hope it’s not as stupid as it has been in the past.”
The parade had no official connection to Hoboken government. It was started in 1986 by a group of friends who wanted to honor Patrick, the Roman Catholic bishop and patron saint of Ireland whose feast day is March 17.
Thousands of visitors turned out every year for the early tribute in Hoboken, the birthplace of Frank Sinatra and a draw for artists, New York City commuters, young families and bar patrons.
The misbehavior became such that by 2009, the city put into effect its zero-tolerance policy for “all quality-of-life infractions.” Last year, police issued more than 500 summonses, and 200 people were ordered to perform community service.
Zimmer in January likened the parade’s aftermath to “an uncontrollable siege of our community.”
In one incident, firefighters responding to a call were assaulted with flower pots. One resident complained that her antique stained-glass door survived riots decades ago, only to be destroyed by a party-goer.
Parade organizers, when they announced the cancellation in January, said they had no responsibility for the rowdiness. The city demonstrated an “inability to protect” participants, they said in a statement on their website.
The city now is planning a family-oriented Irish Festival on March 14 in Frank Sinatra Park, with dance, food and a hurling demonstration. As for the defunct parade, its Facebook fan page lives on, as does a mobile-telephone application designed to navigate more than 60 bars.
One tavern, the Pilsener Haus & Biergarten on Grand Street, will open at 11 a.m. tomorrow for its “1st Annual Hoboken St. Patrick’s Parade-less Day,” according to its website. For visitors from Manhattan, it will operate a free shuttle from the PATH subway station.
Liberty Bar and Grill will serve $3 drafts and “clover shots,” a mix of Bailey’s Irish Cream and creme de menthe, while Northern Soul won’t charge a cover, according to the Lepre-Con website. The Shannon and Willie McBride’s are both advertising live Irish music on their websites.
The city warned on its own website against gathering on rooftops and fire escapes, saying violators may face fines of as much as $2,000 plus community service. Fire Department personnel will check businesses and private homes for occupancy violations, and a crane demolishing a building on Washington Street, the main avenue, will be relocated so traffic can flow.
“Residents are asked to notify authorities as early as possible if they believe that a house party is not fully under control,” the city said in the statement.
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