Columbus Day Parade provides stage for pols to hunt for votes

Hynes, Thompson, de Blasio, all pay tribute to Italian-Americans

October 15, 2013 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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What’s a parade without politicians?

The 32nd Annual Brooklyn Columbus Day Parade on Saturday provided a platform for elected officials and candidates running for political office to try to romance the borough’s voters.

Whether marching the entire parade route along 18th Avenue, like Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes did, or skipping ahead to make an appearance at the grandstand on 18th Avenue and 83rd Street, like DA candidate Ken Thompson did, the pols made their presence known at the event.

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Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio spoke at the grand stand, having the stage all to himself, since his Republican rival, Joe Lhota, did not attend the parade.

Hynes, who is running for re-election on the Republican and Conservative party lines, offered brief remarks at the grandstand, as did his rival Thompson, the man who beat him in the Democratic Primary last month.

Hynes not only marched the entire parade route, he also attended the pre-parade mass at Saint Athanasius Church on Bay Parkway.

Among the lawmakers and candidates the Brooklyn Daily Eagle spotted marching in the parade, state Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-southern Brooklyn), Assemblyman Bill Colton (D-Gravesend-Bensonhurst), Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst), Gentile’s opponent, Republican-Conservative John Quaglione, Republican council candidate Anthony Testaverde, who is running in Gerritsen Beach and Democratic council candidate Mark Treyger, who is running for the seat representing Coney Island, Gravesend and Bensonhurst.

Councilman Domenic Recchia (D-Coney Island-Gravesend-Bensonhurst), who announced that he plans to run for the Brooklyn-Staten Island congressional seat in 2014, marched in the parade alongside Democrat Scott Stringer, who is running this year for city comptroller.

The man Recchia plans to run against, US Rep. Michael Grimm (R-C-Brooklyn-Staten Island), was not at the parade. Grimm released a statement explaining his absence. The government shutdown in Washington kept him in the Capitol, much to his regret, he stated.

“This weekend, the vote schedule in Washington regrettably kept me from attending this year’s Columbus Day Parade in Brooklyn. However, it has not kept me from reflecting on the great contribution Italians, like Christopher Columbus, have made in shaping our nation’s rich history and culture, as well as the long-lasting heritage that continues on today in the Italian-American community. I have always been proud of my Italian heritage. Like many of my constituents, it has shaped my life and helped define who I am,” Grimm said.

“In Congress, I am honored to represent the district with the highest percentage of Italian-Americans in the country,” he said, describing his district, which covers Staten Island, Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, and includes parts of Bensonhurst.

Borough President Marty Markowitz, who is term limited and cannot run for re-election, made his last appearance at the grandstand as borough president.

Carlo Scissura, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, served as master of ceremonies at the grandstand, introducing all of the elected officials and candidates, as well as announcing each group of marchers.

The 32nd Annual Brooklyn Columbus Day Parade, which started on 18th Avenue and 60th Street and ended on 18th Avenue and 84th Street, had something for everyone. There were plenty of marching bands, including bands that traveled all the way from Italy to Brooklyn to be part of the festivities, dancers, antique cars, including a 1930 Ford Model A, twirlers, people walking on 12-foot-high stilts, and a man wearing a giant Christopher Columbus mask.

This year’s grand marshals were: the Rev. Michael Louis Gelfant, pastor of Saint Finbar Roman Catholic Church; Josephine Sportella-Giusto, principal of the Academy of Talented Scholars; Luigi Rosabianca of the law firm Rosabianca & Associates; and Lenny Tillman of Lenco Diagnostic Laboratories.

Gelfant walked the parade route with his dog, Louis Ignatius Gelfant, a pet who has become a kind of mascot for St. Finbar Church. The church, located just a few months from the parade route, boasted the largest contingent of marchers. Members of the parish’s Knight of Columbus Council, children who take religion classes at the church, kids who take part in a church-sponsored dance program, and scores of parishioners marched behind their pastor.

The parade is a beloved tradition in Bensonhurst. Several years ago, the City Council renamed a section of 18th Avenue from 65th Street to 86th Street “Cristoforo Colombo Boulevard” in tribute to the neighborhood’s Italian-Americans.

The event is sponsored every year by the Federation of Italian-American Organizations of Brooklyn, a coalition of dozens of Italian civic and business groups in the borough. The federation’s headquarters is located at 7403 18th Ave. The non-profit organization is currently overseeing the construction of a community and recreation center on the corner of 18th and Benson Avenues.

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