Organizers of Bay Ridge’s Norwegian Day Parade are madder than a pickled herring over the city’s plan to slash their parade route a whopping 25 percent — after letting all St. Patrick’s Day parades go the full route in recent weeks.
In a cost-cutting measure, the city demanded all parades taking place after April 1 begin to use shorter routes — a date Arlene Rutuelo, an organizer of the Nordic fest, pointed out is “after the St. Patrick’s Day galas.”
“It shouldn’t be different for one group and another,” said Victoria Hofmo, founder of the Scandinavian East Coast Museum.
But Paul Browne, a spokesperson for the NYPD, said that the Police Department’s initiative didn’t favor the Irish.
“In terms of notice, we felt April 1 was the soonest we could do it,” he said of the restriction, which was announced in late February. “March would have given too little notice to the St. Patrick’s parade people.
Browne pointed out that all St. Patrick’s Parades will be shortened next year, when the festival will celebrate its 250th anniversary.
The NYPD plan will save money on overtime, therefore saving civilian jobs that otherwise would have come under the budget axe, Brown said.
“Right now, we’re in a very tough fiscal environment,” he said. “I think parade organizers would rather sacrifice some length than see us fire people.”
The 25 percent figure is slightly negotiable, Browne added, saying that individual precincts will “work with parade organizers because in some cases, it might not make sense.
Organizers of Bay Ridge’s 58-year-old parade, which commemorates Norwegian Constitution Day over just 20 blocks, might take him up on his offer.
“It’s a pitiful little parade now,” said Rutuelo. “We understand across-the-board cuts, but we think there’s a case for parade-by-parade evaluations.”
Instead of starting at 87th Street and wending its way to the grandstand set up at 67th Street in Leif Ericson Park, line up will now occur on 82nd Street.
“By the time we feed everyone into the street, it will probably be closer to 75th Street,” Rutuelo noted. “That’s almost laughable.”
While cutting all parades the same percent “sounds fair on the surface, it’s not,” added Hofmo. “I understand they want to save money but there’s a big difference between a one-mile parade and a five-mile parade.
The relatively short notice also has parade organizers upset.
“People made plans based on the old route,” stressed Jimmy Svendsen, the parade chairperson. Now, he added, almost at the last minute, they are forced to revamp plans. “We feel we should get a year to plan.”
Businesspeople whose premises are no longer on the route are also peeved, added Svendsen.
“It’s a big day for them, so they are upset,” he emphasized.
There are “other ways” that costs can be cut, without cutting the route, added Rutuelo, pointing out that the parade committee has historically footed some of the bill for security.