The Hoboken St. Patrick’s Day Parade will be held on Saturday, March 6 at 1 p.m., but residents and officials are worried about the after-party in the streets.
In the last few years, the city’s population has almost doubled on the first Saturday in March, with revelers coming in from surrounding areas to enjoy the parade, then staying for the bars and house parties.
City officials are preparing on several fronts for the festivities. But some residents are so disgusted with the frat party atmosphere that they are calling for an end to the parade altogether.
Public Safety Director Angel Alicea said last week that the parade isn’t the problem, the parties are.
“Whether you shut it down or not, they’re going to come,” he said.
“I am demanding a port-a-potty at Ninth and Washington.” – Mary Ondrejka
Hitting them in the pocketbook
Councilman Nino Giacchi, who chairs the council’s Quality of Life Committee, has recommended that the council implement maximum $2,000 fines with an option for community service.
The council will take a final vote and hear from the public on the ordinance change at their meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 3.
Giacchi introduced the measure at the City Council meeting last week.
“It’s the community service that has a particular attraction,” he said. “You [take] a rabble-rouser who created some garbage, chaos, and mess [and have him] come back on a weekend when he’d otherwise be off and have to participate in some sort of community service.”
Giacchi explained after the meeting that the council has no authority over when the maximum fines are implemented. The fine is up to the judge and prosecutor, Giacchi said, but maximum fines are likely only for “egregious cases.”
The maximum fines are not just for parade day; they’re on the books year round.
Setting the scene
Parade coordinators have estimated that nearly 40,000 people pile into Hoboken on parade day. Some local residents have taken to leaving town on that day to avoid any drunken encounters.
Last year, police had only 65 officers on the streets, but Alicea said there will be more this year.
Alicea, who is working with Police Chief Anthony Falco and Fire Chief Richard Blohm, said the city will approach the parade like they did the Fourth of July celebration last year: All hands on deck.
“Our goal is to have a successful parade with no incidents,” Alicea said. And last year? “It was scary.”
Alicea and Falco are reaching out to a number of public safety entities for assistance, including state police, Port Authority police, the county sheriff, and NJ Transit police.
House parties have become the main concern, and Alicea said the city is organizing a team of police, fire, city inspectors, and others to canvass the city looking for potential violations.
Giacchi said his committee is examining the house party law to make sure it is current and easily enforceable.
City meeting for businesses
Mayor Dawn Zimmer is hosting a business-oriented roundtable this week to help address concerns of local merchants and tavern owners.
Zimmer, the council Quality of Life Committee, public safety officials, and any interested business owners will sit down on Tuesday at 4 p.m. in the basement meeting room in City Hall.
One of the concerns of bar owners is the cost to register their extra security staff for the day. The city currently charges $75 per “bar card” that is issued to security employees, but Zimmer said the city may amend the law to reduce the cost for that day.
An annual resident complaint voiced by Mary Ondrejka at the council meeting last week is that drunken stumblers are known to urinate on people’s doorsteps.
“I am demanding a port-a-potty at Ninth and Washington [streets],” she said. “I am not going to clean up urine out front of my house, on my stoop, in my flower pot again.”
Giacchi said the city will ask the Hospitality Association members to support the city by putting out portable bathrooms.
But the parade must go on
The St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee, a group of residents who volunteer their time to organize the parade, is not happy that their celebration is being sullied by a bunch of drunks.
Committee co-chairman Bill Noonan said the planning for the “best parade in New Jersey” started in October.
“The parade really is a family event,” he said. “We don’t appreciate that we’re getting blamed for the way other people act.”
The group raises funds to cover the cost of marching bands and other expenses. Their annual pre-parade fundraiser event for the honorees will be held on Sunday, Feb. 21, with more details to be announced. Any funds left over get donated to local charities.
City officials have discussed moving the parade to a weekday evening or a Sunday to reduce the amount of out-of-town drinkers. But Noonan said on a weekday evening it would be too dark to march, and on a Sunday, the city would have to close Washington Street. That means a few churches on Washington Street would be inconvenienced on their day of worship. Neither option would work, Noonan said, and many other officials agree.
As far as the fines are concerned, Noonan said that in years past, the city has made money off of the event, even after taking into account overtime and clean-up. So if the fines are doubled, the city could continue to offset the increasing public safety costs.
“If it were up to me, you would take them off the street. Not just give them a ticket. We’re for strict enforcement.”
Timothy J. Carroll may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.