The city’s ticker tape parade celebrating essential workers kicked off Wednesday morning with some last-minute changes, an appearance by Democratic nominee Eric Adams, and at least one group choosing to boycott the event.
With temperatures soaring to the 90s, the “Hometown Heroes” parade organizers scrapped plans for a closing ceremony outside of City Hall. Things kicked off around 11 a.m. at Battery Park, then proceeded along Manhattan’s Canyon of Heroes where spectators cheered them on.
Roy Tumminia, a 39-year-old sanitation worker and shop steward, marveled at participating in a parade for once instead of sweeping up debris afterwards. “It feels really good,” Tumminia said. “This is the first parade I’ve actually marched in rather than worked and usually you’re behind the scenes and cleaning up after everybody. So to be part of it, it’s a proud moment that I get to be part of it for my department. And my friends and family are all looking forward to seeing me on TV, so that’s always a good thing.”
“Normally we’re looking at either a Super Bowl team or World Series champ and now it’s the workers who don’t get the recognition that they truly deserve on a daily basis,” Tumminia added. “Between us , the first responders, health care workers, teachers, everybody who stayed strong and did what they had to do during this. It’s nice to get that recognition and like I said, for me, it’s very different to be in the parade rather than behind it.”
David Maloof stood on the sidelines, cheering. “It’s just part of human nature. Gratitude flows from within us,” said Maloof, 63, a lawyer. “New York City got hit the worst and we made it. And so we have to thank these people for really the most incredible bravery. Bravery is not just in wartime, it’s also in peacetime.”
The Grand Marshal title went to Sandra Lindsay, the Queens hospital nurse who was the first person to receive the Pfizer vaccine in December. In addition to healthcare workers, transportation, utilities, education, bodega, and city workers (among many others) marched in the parade. When the event was announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio last month, not all essential workers were listed as honorees, including funeral industry workers, who were tasked with the grim duty of picking up bodies during the crisis. Following Gothamist’s report, they were invited to join.
Curtis Sliwa, the Republican nominee for Mayor, and the newly-minted Democratic nominee for Mayor, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, also both made appearances at the parade.
Eric Adams here embraced and cheered by the crowd after winning Democratic primary for mayor pic.twitter.com/WdN5k45erB
— Karen Yi (@karen_yi) July 7, 2021
I took this picture of Curtis Sliwa, the Republican nominee for Mayor of NYC, who was on the sidelines of today’s parade. Sliwa is pantomiming a wave to those in attendance, who are looking the other way!
Eric Adams v. Curtis Sliwa, here we come!! pic.twitter.com/Aj6H7w6god
— Aaron Foldenauer (@aaronfoldenauer) July 7, 2021
Adams addressed criticisms of the parade made by some essential workers in recent days, saying, “We need to honor them with pay equity, we need to honor them with the right standard of living, we need to show them the respect they deserve — we learned that from COVID-19.”
One group that declined to participate was EMS staff. Their union says they’re underpaid, an issue that became all the more striking during the COVID-19 pandemic because they’re on the frontlines. Oren Barzilay, the president of Local 2507 which represents EMTs and paramedics, said the parade doesn’t solve their pay disparities – the starting salary for EMTs is $35,000 and the union is currently in contract negotiations with the city.
“We don’t need a parade,” Barzilay said. “We need solutions to our serious problems, and we think participating in this show does not correct the problem that we have.”
Other essential workers were critical of the parade as well. “Money talks, bullshit walks. Why not give us some money for what we went through,” said Marjorie, a security guard who was watching the parade from the sidewalk. She declined to give her last name because she was on duty. She said she had to come into work during the height of the pandemic and was sick for a month, and is still making $23 an hour, which is barely enough for her to get by on. “This is how they show us they have love for us? Are you serious? We still have to pay the bills.”