by Christopher M. Halleron
(Originally published in 2018)
For the past six years, Hoboken has spent the first Saturday of March wringing its hands and clutching its pearls over the shenanigans and public safety hazards that have now come to be known as LepreCon.
In 2012, the City of Hoboken demanded that the Parade Committee move the parade to a weekday, to curb such incidents. The Parade Committee opted not to do it. Whether “the City cancelled the parade” or the “Parade Committee cancelled the Parade” is up for interpretation.
Bottom line: There is still no actual parade this year. And once again Hoboken looks like the town from Blazing Saddles, cowering behind closed doors… complete with the “No Irish” sentiment. Meanwhile the new sheriff in town has opted to clampdown even further on the bars, going as far as to close several for the weekend, citing violations at these establishments from previous events.
The City has been offered advice from the bar community for years on how to deal with these events, and the response is always to ignore it and turn the screws even tighter—penalizing establishments for the bad behavior of their transient patrons. And make no mistake… it IS bad.
LepreCon 2017 saw 477 incidents that required Hoboken Police interaction, resulting in 11 arrests, 54 summonses and 28 trips to the hospital… and this was down from the previous year. So a case could be made that “it’s getting better.” But we all know it’s not.
For the City of Hoboken, there are ways to turn thousands of cash-laden visitors to your town into a positive. A popular suggestion by many has always been a restoration of the Parade, terminating in an event on Pier A with bands and beer tents. Here’s how it works:
- The City holds a lottery for license holders to run the beer tents. Bars get a cut, and a portion of the revenue goes toward covering municipal costs.
- The event ends around 4:00 (no need to light the Pier). It’s controlled, concentrated and easily monitored.
- Bars will still be busy, because not everyone will go to the Pier. But the crazy lines and the house parties, which combine to create the biggest problems, are mitigated.
- At 4:00. Darwinism takes over… people who are too “fatigued” to carry on get on their train and go home. Meanwhile, the bars have a good day, and are ready to handle whatever the night will bring—but it won’t bring as much, because there will be a significant shakeout.
The City makes money. Bars make money. Fast food/retailers make money. Streets are significantly calmer during the day, minimizing negative interaction between revelers and residents. Meanwhile, residents actually have something to enjoy, rather than hiding in their apartments. Hobokenites get a signature civic event back, and they get to make it their own again. It won’t fix everything, but it’s a way forward.
Yet it’s been pitched every year since the Parade vanished, and nothing has been done about it. The City’s demand to hold the event on a weekday has been almost universally scoffed at, and the suggestion to have the parade on a Sunday has been ignored by all involved.
In an attempt to keep the spirit of the parade alive, the Hoboken Irish Festival has evolved into an event that basically serves as the blueprint for everything discussed here. The annual event at Sinatra Park on Hoboken’s waterfront is a showcase of legitimate Irish-American culture, such as Irish sport, dance, music, and food. Furthermore, it has the direct support of organizations like Irish Network New Jersey and the Consulate General of Ireland, who have worked together to help foster a better representation of Irish-America here in Hoboken.
Held since 2012, the open festival atmosphere and controlled drinking have yielded ZERO police incidents to date… that’s way less than 477.
Hoboken can have nice things if everyone involved works together toward a common goal. The idea that Hoboken is just now becoming a family town is frankly insulting to the thousands of families who used to participate not only in the Hoboken St. Patrick’s Day parade but scores of other cultural events and festivals that have been instrumental in honoring the city’s rich cultural foundation—one that is celebrated by all who live here today.
Let’s take that celebration back to streets, by filling the void left by the absence of the Hoboken St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Because right now, all we have is the mess.
Christopher M. Halleron is the Publisher/Editor of hMAG.
As a columnist and journalist, he has covered various aspects of life here in the ‘greater Hoboken area’ and beyond for the past two decades.
His opinions are his own.