Heard Around Town

It’s time for the NY political world to pay homage to the Irish

Parades, flag-raising, Irish-themed attack ads – Happy St. Patrick’s Day New York!

State Attorney General Letitia James, left, and Gov. Kathy Hochul, right, walk in the 2022 St. Patrick’s Day parade in Manhattan.

State Attorney General Letitia James, left, and Gov. Kathy Hochul, right, walk in the 2022 St. Patrick’s Day parade in Manhattan. Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

You may have heard that Gov. Kathy Hochul is Irish. This St. Patrick’s Day weekend is turning out to be slightly more political than usual. A fellow Irishman and major union leader is launching an Ireland-themed attack ad calling the governor a “snake.” Meanwhile, the first-ever LGBTQ inclusive parade is taking place on Staten Island after years of acrimony – and at least two other statewide officials are planning appearances.

In New York, Irish immigrants and the Irish diaspora was once one of the most politically powerful voting demographics. Along with Italy and Israel – representative of the state’s large Jewish population – Ireland was the third “I” that top politicians in the city and state would traditionally visit and pay tribute to if they wanted to succeed in New York politics. Although Irish- and Italian-Americans are still common in the world of politics, demographic changes in the city and state have shifted centers of power even as officials still pay homage to the large communities. 

With St. Patrick’s Day this weekend, New York politicians are preparing for the massive parade – which is older than the nation – in Manhattan where elected officials regularly show their support for the once politically powerful Irish-American voting bloc. 

But after the major parade on Saturday, a number of elected officials are scheduled to attend a much smaller celebration on Sunday on Staten Island, including at least two statewide officials. The city’s smallest borough will host its first LGBTQ-inclusive St. Patrick’s Day parade after years of controversy over the community's exclusion from the borough’s long-standing parade. The main Manhattan parade allowed LGBTQ groups to march a decade ago, and Staten Island is the last borough that completely excludes the community from St. Patrick’s Day parades. 

Both state Attorney General Letitia James and Comptroller Tom DiNapoli are expected to be in attendance at the historic parade, according to their offices. New York City Mayor Eric Adams is also expected to attend after announcing the parade last month. A spokesperson for Hochul wouldn’t confirm whether Hochul would attend, but reaffirmed both her support for Irish and LGBTQ communities. “As New York's first Irish American governor in nearly four decades, Governor Hochul is proud to celebrate St. Patrick's Day and she congratulates the Staten Island community on hosting their first-ever inclusive St. Patrick's Day Parade,” spokesperson Avi Small said. Hochul’s director of LGBTQ affairs and her Staten Island regional representative will both be at the parade on Sunday. A spokesperson for Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado did not return a request for comment.

A number of local officials are also expected to march in the inaugural LGBTQ-inclusive parade, including State Sen. Jessica Scarcella-Spanton and Assembly Member Charles Fall. According to Gothamist, Assembly Member Sam Pirozzolo and City Council Member Kamillah Hanks will also be there. Officials kicked off the weekend of celebrating Irish heritage with some smaller events. Hochul was on her home turf in Buffalo delivering remarks at the Buffalo Irish Center’s Annual Civic Luncheon, while Adams attended a flag-raising ceremony for Ireland in Lower Manhattan. But Hochul is also starting off celebrations on a sour note with at least one-other prominent Irish-American New Yorker as the Transport Workers Union targets her as a “snake” in new St. Patrick’s Day-themed attack ads. According to NY1, the ad features the union’s international president John Samuelsen, whose mother was an Irish immigrant, said that St. Patrick should “rid New York” of Hochul much like how he drove the snakes out of Ireland. He said that Hochul is  “betraying her Irish roots” by failing to adequately support blue-collar workers as his union engages in contentious contract negotiations with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

“Governor Hochul has been a staunch supporter of labor for her entire career, marching on picket lines, speaking at rallies and standing with working people,” Small said in a statement.

This story has been updated with a response from the governor’s office.

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