Often in my blog, I laud Mayor Zimmer. I think she's fantastic, and most everything she has done I have agreed with.
One of the hot topics where I disagree is the St. Patrick's Day parade. This isn't a simple issue. It's complex. There's certainly a lot of people affected by it, and the most obvious issue that critics point to is "quality of life".
Things that can't be disputed that on our parade day there are lots of people who come to Hoboken who could care less about a parade, and are simply looking for an excuse to drink. Considering that most of our fund raisers (Restore Our Shore at City Bistro or The Gala to Rebuild Hoboken) revolve around serving alcohol. You disagree? Try to have either of those events in a "family friendly" setting. Take away the bars from those fundraisers or any serving of alcohol & move those events to a Wednesday night. Think they would have the same turnout? You and I both know they wouldn't.
As for the issue of crime. Recently the city council discussed that last year crime was down compared to years past, and are using that as a reason why moving the parade to a Wednesday was a success. First off, there were far less people in town last year for the "LepreCon", even if 10,000 people online said they RSVP'd - a simple walk around town proved that there were far fewer people versus years past. Hence...less crime. Don't piss on my head and tell me it's raining. Of course if you have less people in town you will have less crime. That shouldn't be a reason to cancel this parade.
Here's the easy solutions that can bring the parade back to the weekends and make everyone happy:
1. Schedule it for a Sunday, not a Saturday. The argument from The Hoboken St. Patrick's Day Committee was that participants could not do a weekday parade because many of them are working. Saturday was the reason, but i'm sure most people will be able to make a Sunday parade. Plus, most younger adults can drink with wild abandon on a Saturday afternoon, whereas most younger adults may have a good time - but many of them have jobs on Monday and that will temper HOW drunk they get.
2. Create a Beer Garden for people to drink & charge them. We have similar tents for The St. Ann's Festival. Plus the St. Ann's Festival has live music. The Nerds played there last time. Why not do the same thing for the St. Patrick's Day event? We had Mumford & Sons play on Pier A last summer. I would do the same event, with live Irish Bands. This would do two things: 1. Less house parties and 2. Keep the drinkers in a place where they can be easily controlled.
It won't stop the house parties. It won't stop bars from having people drink. What it will do is diffuse those events by taking the 17,000 people who would normally be at a house party or a bar - and put them in front of the police. It will allow us to hire Class 2 police or, perhaps, a professional security company (like ones you see at other outdoor concerts) to patrol the "St. Patrick's Day Beer Garden", while "regular" police can patrol the city and respond to calls of disturbances. Visibly intoxicated people at the Beer Garden will be removed with zero tolerance.
Also, the money raised from this event can offset the clean up costs. Mumford & Sons attracted 17,000 people - and they sold beer at that event. Lets imagine to attend the Beer Garden you need a wristband to enter, each wristband is $5. Beer is $4 each, much like you would find at any bar in Hoboken. The wristbands alone would generate $85,000 (17,000 times $5). That's not including what the beer would generate, which I would hazard to say if everyone had 1 drink, that would be $51,000 (this includes beer costs, which would probably be $1 per drink, so expect $3 profile per beer). Also, I would hire for this event licensed Hoboken bartenders at $200 each - and there will be plenty of them available that aren't working the bar that day (trust me, as someone who bartended for 10+ years you can find free bartenders who want to make easy money pouring beer.
3. Move the Parade to Sinatra Drive. This is for multiple reasons. One, the argument from store owners is that they didn't like so many people blocking their store fronts. Two, this blocks major traffic on Washington Street. Three, people live along Washington Street & are affected by the quality of life. Let's move it to Sinatra Drive, where people can easily line up and watch the parade, with NYC as the backdrop. Have the parade begin at 11th Street and "end" at the Beer Garden, with Erie-Lackawanna Park and Hudson Place cars & taxis removed. People who want to watch the parade without having to listen to loud music & revelers along Washington Street can enjoy it without people bumping into them or making noise.
4. Create a "Family Friendly" area at the Hoboken Little League field. Its a large open space which is close to the parade & allows for kids and adults to watch the parade pass by on Sinatra Drive - with a fenced in area so its easy to watch your kids!
5. Work with the bar community. I know more than this than the average citizen. I happen to be friends with many bar owners. You know what they all say - they didn't like the parade. Yes, it increases revenue. But the headache of dealing with drunks on that day - by hiring more security and dealing with drunks really doesn't make it "worth it". An interesting idea would be the following: Bar owners agree that patrons need to buy wristbands to enter their bars - just like the beer garden. The wristbands are a $5 charge, and proceeds will go towards the city. Bars need to "buy" them from the city before the parade.
So, for example, Bar XYZ buys 1,000 wrist bands for that day or $5,000 which they resell. Now, no one is stopping Bar XYZ from selling those at a fair market value. They could sell them at $5....or $20. We all know that bars have a cover on parade days - plus people can then go to the bar or the Beer Garden. Say someone wants to do a few hours at the Beer Garden, and then join their friends at a bar - they can flash their wristband and don't have to pay a cover. People will say "Why should I pay for a $20 wristband at Bar XYZ, when its only $5 at the Beer Garden". Simple, supply and demand and the bars choice on what they price.
Also if someone leaves the bar for a smoke or whatever and they return with a wristband - then they aren't charged a cover again. The bar is "asked" to buy the number of wristbands equal to their occupancy. So, if Bar XYZ has 300 capacity, they buy $1500 worth of wristbands (if not more), which they make their money back by selling to people at $5 each - or maybe even giving those wristbands for free to their "regulars" (the bar eats the cost of $5, like a buyback). This is the easy way to create a Parade Tax, and if you figure we have 80 bars in town and even 40 of those bars get on board and buy on average 200 wristbands, that is $40,000 that the bars just generated for the city - if not more. Its more money than the ill-planned "fund" that Mayor Zimmer tried in 2009. Plus, my idea is $5 for a wristband. You could make them $10 each.
Use the parade to our advantage. My ideas would absolutely work, generate revenue for clean up costs and security costs - I hazard to say the city could generate $175,000+ on parade day (and that's a conservative estimate). It would satisfy the parade committee and if not keep all the curmudgeon homeowners happy, it would satisfy most of them except for the vocal NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) types who will never be happy.