Dollars and sense of St. Pat’s Parade
City plans alternative Irish event for March 14; business owners speak out
by Ray Smith
Reporter staff writer
Feb 05, 2012 | 2646 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
PREPPING FOR A LEPRE-CON – Jim English of United Decorating supports the controversial Lepre-con event.
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Even though Hoboken’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade has been canceled this year, the city will continue the tradition of honoring Irish heritage in March with a new event, Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s administration said last week.

“The cultural event will feature Irish music, food, sport, and dance and will be held during the evening on Wednesday, March 14 at Sinatra Park,” city spokesperson Juan Melli said in an e-mail.

Local resident Chris Halleron is helping organize the event.
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The city has announced its own Irish-themed event.
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“I was disappointed when the parade was cancelled, but more so with the events that surround the day,” Halleron said last week. “I’ve gone on record defending the parade for years…it is unfortunate about the cancellation, but we’re trying to take a step in a different direction with this new event.”

Plans have not been finalized yet, but Halleron said there will be free admission, and any proceeds through concessions will go to charity. He added that there will be events for both children and adults lined up for the day.

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee canceled the parade recently after being told by Zimmer that they could only march on a Wednesday, as opposed to the usual first Saturday in March. Zimmer was attempting to cut down on the increase in partying that has occurred in Hoboken in the last few years on parade day. Last year, two people reported sexual assaults to police during the parade weekend.

But the parade committee, which is independent from the city, said they did not want to hold the parade on a weeknight, for various reasons.

Bar owners and other residents have offered up alternative celebrations for the first Saturday in March, hoping to still make money on that day.

But last week, one business owner says she is worried because parade-related items make up a good part of her business.

History with parades

Rose Kirchgessner of United Decorating – a Washington Street store that has outfitted the city’s parades for more than 100 years – says the cancellation of the parade could be devastating for her business. Parade merchandise accounts for approximately 40 percent of her store’s annual income, she said.

She is still selling St. Patrick’s Day memorabilia, not to mention items related to a substitute event that local bar owners are creating called “Hoboken Lepre-Con,” but it’s not the same.

“We start selling St. Patrick’s Day merchandise in the beginning of January,” Kirchgessner said last week.

Kirchgessner said businesses on Washington Street will suffer from the loss of the parade, while the real problem lies with house parties that are held.

Jim English, a longtime employee at United, said local establishments could use the spike in business that comes with the parade.

“Everybody can use a push in business here and there, but especially now, when the economy is already really bad,” he said.

As far as how she plans to make up the lost revenue, Kirchgessner said she just hopes people will come into the store on the first Saturday of the year and beyond.

Other local business people said they expect that the events being planned for the first Saturday will still bring in extra customers. If one Facebook event page is right, almost 10,000 guests plan on partying in Hoboken through “Lepre-con.”

It remains unclear who exactly is organizing Lepre-con. A message sent over Facebook to the founder of the event page was not answered by press time.

Mario Lepore of Lepore’s Chocolates on Fourth Street, said he usually gets a slight increase in business on parade day. Next door, Patricia Scribner, the owner of Patricia’s Yarns, said she understood the parade committee’s decision.

“I don’t think [the committee] had a choice except to cancel the parade,” she said, adding that she thought Sunday would have been a good option.

“I understand the mayor’s concerns about public safety, but this year there won’t be a parade and there’s still the same concerns,” Scribner said.

She said she wasn’t sure yet if Patricia’s Yarns will be open on the first Saturday of March. She said she usually closes her shop on parade day because her customers “aren’t out shopping that day.”

Councilwoman Theresa Castellano owns City Discount at 207 Washington St. Despite usually being a critic of the mayor, she said she understands the concerns about parade day.

“Saturday is my busiest day usually but I wouldn’t dare open [on the first Saturday in March],” Castellano said.

She said that every year, she pays upwards of $1,500 just so people watch over her store on parade day.

Castellano said she likes the parade, but has been a critic of the post parade activities. She added that she would like to see a year round, zero tolerance policy, which increases fines to $2,000 for public intoxication or other alcohol related offenses. Such high fines are usually doled out on parade day.

What about Lepre-Con?

Almost 10,000 Facebook guests have confirmed that they will be partying in Hoboken on March 3, despite the cancelation.

The description of the event reads: “Over the next few weeks, we will coordinate with Hoboken's local watering holes to ensure that they are well prepared to receive us and keep this tradition alive.”

Meeting about ‘Lepre-Con’ Monday

Alyssa Kuminski of the Wicked Wolf said she will meet with someone from the Lepre-Con event on Monday to discuss the day.

“We will be gearing up for the day just as if the parade is on,” Kuminski said.

One downtown bar employee was quoted in a local online news report saying that the Hoboken St. Patrick’s Day accounts for 10 percent of the bar’s annual income.

But the bar owners aren’t the only ones gearing up for the first Saturday in March. Last year, the city spent over $150,000 in overtime costs for city employees, including public safety, according to a report.

Police arrested 34 people and issued 296 summonses during the 2011 St. Patrick’s Day Hoboken celebration. In 2010, 555 citations were issued on parade day, and 25 people were arrested.

The amount of money that the city ended up reaping as a result of parade fines could not be obtained by press time.

The city is still gearing up for the first Saturday in March, as well as one other.

“We’re certainly preparing for increased enforcement on both March 3 and 17,” Melli said.

Last week, the Irish Echo, a New York City based Irish-American newspaper, backed the cancelation of the parade in an editorial.

“The mayor did the right thing,” the editorial reads. “It’s up to the broader Irish-American community to make sure no other mayors are forced to make similar decisions.”

Ray Smith may be reached at RSmith@hudsonreporter.com.

Stay away, Snooki! Or not…

Mayor Dawn Zimmer was all over the national news last week after the city rejected a permit request for MTV to film a spinoff of their popular reality TV show, “Jersey Shore,” on the streets of Hoboken. The spinoff would star Nicole Polizzi and Jennifer Farley, better known as Jersey Shore’s Snooki and JWOWW.

The decision denies the dynamic duo from filming publicly in Hoboken. The pair could still, however, film inside private places (like bars or apartments).

The mayor said that the filming of the show would be “degrading” to residents’ quality of life. Also, the producers wanted to film 24/7, and in Hoboken, filming in residential areas is only allowed up until 11 p.m. The decision can still be appealed to the City Council.

One business owner in town, Rose Kirchgessner of United Decorating on Washington Street -- a store that has sold Jersey Shore-themed t-shirts -- said this week that she hopes Snooki and JWoww still make their way to Hoboken to film the show.

“I was excited and hoped they were going to come here,” Kirchgessner said. “I’m hoping they still come, because they can still appeal [to the City Council]…there’s still a shot at it.”

But others have denounced the idea of the show coming to Hoboken. Residents took to Twitter and Facebook to voice their opinions, with many thanking Mayor Dawn Zimmer for denying the permit.

When reached by phone by on Thursday, a spokesperson for 495 Productions (Jersey Shore’s production company) would not comment when asked if there are plans to still film the show in private locations.

Instead, the spokesperson emailed a statement, which read: “We appreciate the consideration by Hoboken’s Mayor, Chief of Police, and Film Commission of our application for a permit to shoot Snooki and JWOWW’s spinoff in Hoboken. We hope to find a way to work together in the future.”

The mayor recently received the support of the Italian American One Voice Coalition, a group that fights Italian stereotypes and opposes the show. Andre DiMino, who has been critical of the show in the past, said in a phone interview with the Reporter that if anyone protests at City Hall against the mayor’s decision, his group will be there to counter-protest against the show.

The show frequently films its stars engaging in sex (referred to by the cast as “smushing”) and drinking. – Ray Smith

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