“No one has won the mayor’s race without attending this traditional Irish breakfast with the legendary Jim McManus!” Rep. Carolyn Maloney exclaimed.
Maloney had rushed back from mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Saturday morning to introduce House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a surprise guest at the venerable McManus Midtown Democratic Club’s annual St. Patrick’s Day breakfast. The East Side congresswoman spent much of her morning on a narrow podium in the middle of the 42nd Street TGI Friday’s, which the club rented between 6 a.m. and 1 p.m.
“I’m not a rabbi, I’m not a priest, I’m not a reverend, but I’m blessing everyone who is at this breakfast,” she said.
Public officials looking toward their next career move paid tribute to McManus, a Manhattan district leader, and his club’s membership while feasting on corned beef, hash browns, scrambled eggs, Irish coffee and pints of Guinness several hours before the parade. The club traces its roots to Tammany Hall through Hell’s Kitchen, where four generations of McManuses have mobilized voters for Manhattan candidates. These days, they’re an important constituency for anyone seeking elected office and the club’s St. Patrick’s Day breakfast is one of the longest-running political traditions in the city.
Several electeds, including Council Speaker Christine Quinn, made brief appearances at the beginning of the breakfast before heading to mass. For a short while, the Jewish and Protestant politicians had the run of the place.
Another Democratic mayoral hopeful, Bill Thompson, mingled with Maloney, Pelosi, Republican mayoral candidate John Catsimatidis, Assembly members Dick Gottfried, Brad Hoylman and Micah Kellner, Councilwoman Jessica Lappin, City Council hopeful Yetta Kurland and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who spoke after Pelosi thanked Maloney for inviting her.
“I believe the president is on his way,” Stringer said. “Barack Obama … is he coming? … This year Pelosi, next year Obama!”
Obama was not coming.
While making his way off the podium, Catsimatidis said his campaign was “going great.” Catsimatidis confirmed a rumor out of Brooklyn that he purchased METRO Energy, a fuel oil company in Greenpoint.
“We bought it,” he said. “We saved 130 jobs and we’re going to announce it next week. You got a scoop!”
Councilwoman Gale Brewer arrived clutching a copy of James Joyce’s “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.” She gave out hundreds of books by Irish and Irish American authors on Friday morning at a subway stop in her district.
“This is my favorite event,” she said. “I got there around 6:30 a.m. The look on people’s faces – I think they think it’s a religion.”
Brewer had started the book, but would not commit to reading a 1,040-page copy of “Ulysses” because she “didn’t have time.”
By 9:30 a.m., another set of electeds began to arrive. City Comptroller John Liu, who would officially launch his mayoral campaign with stops in all five boroughs on Sunday, walked in a few minutes later. Liu is a man who knows his proverbs, Gaelic and otherwise.
“For today? Eat, drink and be merry,” he said. “I think this is also an ancient Chinese proverb.”
A few minutes later, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio took the microphone.
“Anyone who wants to be mayor of this city comes to this breakfast,” he said. “It’s one of the great events in New York City.”
Rep. Peter King arrived, followed by Republican mayoral hopeful Joe Lhota. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly took over a corner booth and downed a coffee. When de Blasio finished up, he made his way through the crowd and joined Kelly for a private chat.
Nearby, King grabbed himself a plate of pancakes and sausages. He would lead the Uniformed Fire Officers Association in the parade later that day and dressed for the occasion in a white Aran-knit Irish sweater.
“I enjoy the camaraderie, it’s a great New York crowd,” he said, referring to the breakfast. “This is the 21st century, but it’s old New York.”
The congressman shared a word with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, before Cuomo left for another event.
“He congratulated me on my boxing match last month,” King said.
Quinn entered and took a spot on the podium next to Maloney and several members of the McManus clan.
“You can’t be mayor of New York City without receiving the blessing of the McManus breakfast,” she said. “I just wanted to say that I’ve been coming since before I was the speaker, except for one year when I was in Ireland. I have perfect attendance.”
By 11 a.m., the breakfast began to wind down and most attendees gathered around two bars near the entrances to fill up on stouts and Irish coffee before the six-hour parade. A tieless Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh declared the breakfast an “excellent St. Patrick’s Day” prelude.
“I went to Brooks Brothers to try to buy a green tie this morning but decided against it,” he said. “I’m not wearing green today because my blood is green.”