The tipping point for Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan came right after last year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, when she saw a drunk guy peeing on her car parked near City Hall.
She would have called for police, but they were busy breaking up a brawl nearby.
The mayor confronted the drunk man, who finished his business, zipped up and went on his way. She said she never bothered to identify herself as the mayor.
“He was so intoxicated,” she said today, “I didn’t think it would matter.”
At a glance
North Albany Limerick Parade
Step Off: Noon Saturday
Route: North First Street west of North Pearl Street at the North Albany American Legion Post; parade will proceed east to North Pearl Street, then south off North Pearl Street to Emmett Street; east on Emmett Street to Broadway; North on Broadway to Wolfert Avenue in the Village of Menands; back south on South Pearl Street to North First Street.
Albany St. Patrick’s Day Parade
Step Off: 2 p.m. Saturday
Route: Central Avenue starting at Quail Street, parade will proceed east on Central Avenue to Washington Avenue; then east on Washington Avenue to State Street; east on State Street to Lodge Street.
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Public drunkenness, brawls, urinating in the streets, underage drinking — these are just some of the by-products if not traditions of Albany’s annual celebration of Irish heritage. Sheehan, who is of Irish descent, considers the link an “insult.”
“The St. Patrick’s Day Parade has been a source of real concern,” Sheehan said. “This is about shifting the culture.”
Albany has a new message for people heading out to its St. Patrick’s Day parades Saturday. You can wear your green, but leave the 12-pack at home unless you want a ticket.
Stating they want a more “family-friendly” environment, Albany officials announced today they will be cracking down on open containers for Saturday’s parades in an effort to cut back on public intoxication, fights and underage drinking that has become as much a tradition in the city that day as waving politicians and wool sweaters.
No more lugging 30-packs over your shoulder on Central Avenue. Sheehan, parade organizers and others said you can see everything along the route when you march in the parade — and officials are not happy with everything they have seen.
At a news conference at City Hall, city officials were backed by law enforcement, parade organizers, tavern owners and other business leaders heralding the move.
“We want to make sure it is the family-friendly event it is intended to be,” Sheehan said. She added the crackdown follows successful efforts to eradicate open drinking during Tulip Festival and Alive at Five concerts.
Deputy Police Chief Brendan Cox said efforts to control drinking outside establishments have been escalating to this point.
“The past few years we’ve really squeezed the open containers in the outlying neighborhoods,” he said. “Along the parade route we will not allow open containers.”
Officials said benefits of the crackdown will include reining in underage drinking, fights and public urination. Cox said county and state law enforcement will also be conducting DWI checkpoints Saturday. Because of general safety, he encouraged paradegoers not to bring backpacks or coolers, but said there is no outright prohibition.
The city hosts two parades Saturday. The North Albany Limerick Parade starts at noon. The main event starts at 2 p.m., when the Albany St. Patrick’s Day Parade steps off from Central Avenue at Quail Street.
That’s right in front of Pauly’s Hotel. Tavern owner John Mancini welcomes the increased enforcement by the city, stating it will be good for business and the safety of people coming to the parade.
“It’s a win-win,” he said. “Times have changed for the better.”
Bar patrons will not be allowed to bring their drinks outside, even to designated viewing areas.
Chris Pratt, who co-owns four downtown bars but none along the parade route, clearly favors the crackdown on open containers. But a plan unveiled just Tuesday to bar owners at a meeting — to create nondrinking viewing areas for nonparade establishments along the route — left him “confused.”
“I had no clue,” Pratt said. “I don’t understand what they are trying to do. I did say that at the meeting.”
Pratt said there is no time to market the viewing areas as places patrons can reserve a spot to watch, adding that as of Wednesday afternoon, he didn’t even know where the designated areas are. He said the concept could work next year if plans are discussed months rather than days in advance.
City officials and parade organizers had become increasingly disturbed by the general rowdiness they’ve seen along the parade route, which now ends short of its former terminus at North Pearl Street — home to numerous restaurants and bars that proved to be a boisterous congregating point.
Pratt said he hopes the crackdown could someday lead to North Pearl being reincorporated into the parade route, changed three years ago. For the mayor, a good start could be coming back to an unsoiled car.