Word of a workable deal between firefighters, members of the department’s Emerald Society, and parade organizers emerged after a meeting last week of the parade committee and delegates held in Manhattan.
The meeting was organized for the evening of September 11, a decision that enraged FDNY emerald leaders.
However, an apology and explanation from parade committee chairman John Dunleavy has since poured some oil on what had been roiling waters.
“Chairman Dunleavy was very apologetic. He said the meeting date had to do with timing,” FDNY Emerald president, Billy Nolan, told the Echo.
“He has agreed to put us back in our spot. Hopefully, he won’t change his mind,” Nolan said.
The firefighter marching contingent was bumped back down the 5th Avenue line of march for this year’s parade on the instructions of Dunleavy.
This was in part due to the New York contingent being joined in the 2006 parade by a group of New Orleans firefighters who unfurled a banner thanking New York for help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
The parade committee has long sought to keep a tight rein on who marches where in the parade and bars all groups who have not been specifically invited to march by themselves, or with other included groups.
The decision to put the New York firefighters farther down the line caused uproar and critical press comment primarily directed at the parade chairman.
The firefighters turned up and took part in the 2007 parade, but were anything but happy with the demotion.
Last week’s brouhaha over the delegates meeting, held at the New York Athletic club, re-ignited the aggrieved feelings that have been smoldering in firefighter ranks since the March parade.
Chairman Dunleavy, however, held out an olive branch in the aftermath of the gathering, which was attended by Nolan and other Emerald leaders including Thomas O’Connor, president of the Grand Council of Emerald Societies.
Dunleavy said that he now wanted to sit down with firefighters and get them to sign an agreement stating that they would not invite other firefighters to march with them.
Based on such an agreement, Dunleavy said he saw “no problem” in putting firefighters back in their traditional spot.
“That’s where it stands,” Dunleavy said.
Dunleavy said that the agreement did not mean that firefighters from other cities could not take part in the parade. But the inclusion of any other firefighting contingents, and their position in the line of march, would be up to the parade committee.
“There’s plenty of counties with smaller marching contingents. We could put such groups in with them,” Dunleavy said.
“The bottom line is I attained by objective. I got their attention,” Dunleavy added in reference to his decision to bump the firefighters six months ago.
“As professionals they don’t come any finer. But I did what I had to do and took a lot of flack for it. But I have 184 affiliated groups to consider,” Dunleavy said.
Dunleavy said that the parade committee had felt that firefighters were taking too long to make their way up Fifth Avenue. They had been timed at both St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the parade reviewing stand in 2006.
Other marching units, many of them with high school kids, were being kept waiting while the police department, a bigger marching unit was faster than the firefighters, he said.
Dunleavy did say that the firefighters had stepped up their pace in this year’s parade.
“It was the best I’ve seen,” he said.
As for the timing of last week’s meeting, Dunleavy said he was conscious of the date but said that the 9/11 commemoration ceremonies were long over by the time the meeting started.
“Most of our meetings are on Tuesdays. No disrespect was intended. We thought a meeting at night would not be a problem,” he said.
Dunleavy said that travel and a tight schedule for organizing the parade had necessitated the delegates meeting at this time.