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NYC Mayor Eric Adams Hosts Reception Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day

Arthur Piccolo, Chair, Bowling Green Association: Everyone, hello. Welcome to Bowling Green. My name is Arthur Piccolo, Chairman of the Bowling Green Association, and welcome here from what I know is one of the most important events that we hold here. We do a lot of flag raisings, a whole lot of flag raisings, but none of them are more important than this flag raising because of its significance and what took place here.

From my perspective, although I’m not Irish, I think this is the most sacred… The case can be made this is the most sacred place in Irish America because of what took place here on March 17th, 1762.

I have to give you a little backstory. First of all, I’m wearing a button that says 500, because 500 years ago an Italian began the journey that became New York City when he came here and stood here on April 17th, 1524. There’s been great history since then, but little — none, maybe — as great as what took place here on March 17th, 1762. And I want to tell you why for a moment.

It started, March 17th, 1762, started out just a normal day in British‑occupied New York City, but by the end of the day, history had been made. The British had conscripted Irish men who obviously did not want to work for the British, conscripted and sent here as British soldiers. On March 17, 1762, with the British headquarters in North America was right here at One Broadway. The British fort, Fort George, was right here.

But Irish soldiers and Irish colonists about noon on that day, started gathering at Bowling Green for one purpose, to do something that had never been done in history, not in Ireland, not in America, not anywhere. Irish and Boston had been gathering on St. Patrick’s Day at the taverns, but no one had ever, ever held a parade in honor of St. Patrick until March 17th, 1762 when the Irish soldiers and the Irish colonists gathered here and paraded up and down Broadway.

In Ireland, of course, as you all know, the color green was banned, but those Irish men and women that day wore green in defiance of the British officers who were standing all around, the senior British officers. It was a parade in honor of Irish pride and in honor of St. Patrick’s, but it was so much more.

What it was the first organized demonstration against British power in either America or in Ireland. What happened here that day when these Irish men and women marched up and down Broadway on March 17, 1762, was the first step that many years later led to America’s independence; and later after that, to Irish independence.

This was the first step. It was not just a parade and a march in honor of being Irish, it was a visible demonstration against British rule both here and in Ireland. There had not been a previous demonstration of this type anywhere in the colonies or in Ireland up until that time. And these are heroes. I wish we had their names, we don’t, there isn’t a list of it. But they are certainly heroes, and we are standing right where they stood on that day.

The flag that we will raise today in their honor has flown over the general post office in Ireland, the same Irish flag that was raised over the General Post Office on Easter Sunday in 1916 to declare the beginning of the rebellion of  the Irish against the British.

Can we put the flag? So, that’s why I am so proud to have this event here, and we have it here, we’ll have it here every year for every more.

I hope 100 years from now, Irish men and women will come here and remember how 100 years ago and more we began raising the Irish flag here.

In introducing Hilary Bierne, who is the heart and soul of the Irish community today, and I consider him a great friend, when we met here last year, Bowling Green had just established a new award called the New York City Hero Award and for people who have done special things for our city and for our nation, and Hilary was the first, very first recipient.

Right now, I want to present to Hillary in honor of another New York City Hero, a hero who is no longer here. This is the first posthumous award. This award, the New York City Hero Award, in honor of the great Hercules Mulligan, the great Irish immigrant Hercules Mulligan.
There is no proof, but as much as there isn’t proof, I am absolutely certain that one of the organizers, if you know the history of Hercules Mulligan, one of the organizers, and certainly who was here on March 17, 1762, was Hercules Mulligan, the great Hercules Mulligan, who saved George Washington’s life, who basically we’re still trying to have a monument in his honor, and we will do that eventually.

Hilary, please accept this award.

Hilary Beirne, Chair, St. Patrick’s Day Foundation, NYC: Thank you, Arthur. I’m not sure Arthur introduced himself. Arthur is the chairman of the Bowling Green Association. And as he quite rightly said, the first parade in 1762 started at this location.

And in 2022 was the first time we had this ceremony here, and that was thanks to Arthur, and he reached out and said New York City is just coming out of the final… Well. we assumed it was the final surge of the Covid, and we were planning the first major event in the United States post pandemic.

And Arthur said, well, let’s meet with the mayor and have a flag raising ceremony here at this location. And we had it last year with the mayor; and today, the mayor will arrive sooner or later.

But welcome to Bowling Green, everybody. As Arthur said, this parade started in 1762. And as those of you who listen to me talk over and over and over again about the history of the parade,  I apologize, but for those of you who don’t know, the significance of that is this parade has survived the war of revolution in this country. It predates this country by 14 years, which is amazing.

It has survived a civil war, World War I, World War II, the Great Depression and the pandemics of 1918 and 2020. And bear in mind, the Irish community of New York has marched on the streets every single year since 1762, even during the pandemic.

We had symbolic parades, my apologies. We had symbolic parades in 2020, thanks to the fighting 69th. The fighting 69th, we had a plan in place about one p.m. before the parade on March 17th in 2020. And you have to understand, at that point in time the city had closed down. Every day, something else was closed down.

And there was a genuine fear among us that we would not be able to come and maintain the tradition of the Irish marching on the streets of New York because when 9/11 happened, the entire city shut down, and there was a fear that the same would have happened on March 17th in 2020. So, at six p.m. the night before, I drove into the city, left our banner with the instructions that if in the event the city had closed the next morning, as it did after 9/11, that indeed the 69th Regiment would take out that banner and march on the streets of New York.

Needless to say, the next morning at six a.m. we had Joe Brady, the bagpiper, Joe, and about 50 members of the 69th Regiment, and there was about 20 of us, and we marched from 26th Street from the fighting 69th Armory to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and then we marched to the American Irish Historical Society at 82nd Street.

The following year, we were a little bit more organized. We even invited the mayor of New York City to march with us, and we had about 300 people that year. So, we have maintained the history of the parade, which is very, very important.

And tomorrow, those of you who are marching in the parade, you have to understand when you walk out on to Fifth Avenue, you walk in the footsteps of the millions of poor Irish immigrants that came to this country, especially 1845 to 1850 of the Irish famine. You walk in their footsteps.

Be proud. We’re here in New York for 262 years. We plan to be here for another 262 years. We have a wonderful grand marshal, Maggie Timoney from County Mayo. And Maggie, along with all the aides, will do us proud tomorrow. And as I said to Maggie, just like I said to you, she walks in the footsteps and the shadows of all those immigrants that came before us. So, on that note, Happy St. Patrick’s Day.
I’d like to introduce Assemblyman Robert Carroll and Commissioner of International Affairs.

State Assemblymember Robert Carroll: Thank you, Hilary. Good afternoon. I didn’t realize I was going to speak, but thank you, Arthur. Thank you, Hilary. It is wonderful to be here at Bowling Green to kick off New York’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration. My grandfather came from County Galway in 1948 to start his family and to start his American dream.

But as Hilary was just saying, I think the reason St. Patrick’s Day is so important not just to Irish Americans throughout our country but to all Americans, is because the Irish American experience, that first great migration in starting in 1845, is the beginning of the idea of the American dream. It is the beginning where we see large immigration shape our country and shape who we are as a people.

And so as folks walk up Fifth Avenue tomorrow, it’s not just to celebrate Irish American culture, but it’s to celebrate American culture. It’s to celebrate the idea that we are a melting pot. We are a place where people have come for generations to celebrate our country and to remember the past.

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade happens to be the first expression of that, but of course, there are many parades throughout Fifth Avenue, down Fifth Avenue every single year that express just that.

And so I am very proud of my Irish American heritage, but most especially I am proud of my New York City heritage, and I understand that our city was shaped by waves and waves of immigrants, first the Irish, but many others to come. So, Happy St. Patrick’s Day, and it’s wonderful to be here this afternoon with all of you.
Bierne: And now allow me to introduce our New York City commissioner of International Affairs, Edward Mermelstein.
Commissioner Edward Mermelstein, Mayor’s Office of International Affairs: Thank you so much, Arthur.

Top of the morning to all of you. Again, my name is Edward Mermelstein. I am New York City’s Commissioner for International Affairs. Delighted to be standing before all of you today to celebrate the rich Irish heritage of our great city.

From the vibrant neighborhoods of Astoria, Woodside and Maspeth, to Woodlawn, affectionately known as Little Ireland, the Irish spirit runs deep in New York City. So does the corned beef and cabbage.

The Irish Americans. your force in getting stuff done, as our mayor likes to say… From the brave men and women serving in the NYPD and the FDNY to the dedicated leaders in local government, your impact is felt across all of our five boroughs.

And let’s remember the iconic New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade, the oldest and largest of its kind in the world, drawing over two million spectators at least every year.

This parade isn’t just a procession. It’s a testament to the enduring Irish pride that fills our city. May good luck be your friend in whatever you do, and may trouble be always a stranger to you. Thank you all for being an integral part of this vibrant community. Have a great day, and see you, hopefully, most of you tomorrow.
Bierne: Thank you, commissioner. Ladies and gentlemen, the mayor of New York City, Mayor Adams.
Mayor Eric Adams:  Thank you so much. A real pleasure to be here. This is, out of all of the roles you can have of being a mayor of the City of New York, it is important to have not only substantive successes like bringing back the highest number of private sector and public sector jobs in the history of the city, making the city a safe place, bringing tourism here with 62 million tourists, watching the city continue to thrive and grow.

Those are the substantive things, but being mayor is symbolic as well. And the flag raisings that we have here at Bowling Green, which is considered to be the heart our economic stability of not only here in New York City, but in America. And when you do these flag raisings, it sends the right message that all of our communities make up this great city we call New York.

Nothing personifies that more than the Irish community. Not only have you built bridges that allowed us to cross our riverways, but you have built relationships that allowed us to cross the greatness of this city. From our subway system to major buildings such as the Empire State Building, there’s a long, rich history that’s connected to the Irish community.

But you don’t have to go online and Google where the Irish population resides in this great country we call America, you could just look on our streets, our taverns, our places, our neighborhood. This is the Dublin of America. The largest number of Irish Americans live in New York City. We should be proud of that.

And your contributions are rich. But what’s amazing about this country is that you are not called American Irish, I’m not called American African, Chinese are not called American Chinese. America says, hold on to your culture and your country. Bring the rich tradition of what you represent, everything from your food, your dance, your clothing, your religious philosophies and belief, and bring it to be the common foundation of America.

You are Irish Americans, I’m African American, Chinese are Chinese American, German and Jews and Polish Americans. We bring our tradition and we hold on to that. That is what makes us the greatest country on the globe.

So, the people you see here who are lined up to take the picture of the bull, they realize this city don’t believe in any BS.

We are the greatest city on the globe, and that’s called New York City. So, we’re going to celebrate the Irish spirit… tomorrow. The greatest Irish parade is taking place, St. Patrick’s Day parade is taking place in Manhattan. I’m looking forward to marching. I’m looking forward to having the Irish coffee in the day to give me the energy to get through the entire day.

But thank you for celebrating and raising the flag of the Irish people in Ireland that’s here in New York City. Thank you very much, and let’s look forward to tomorrow

Beirne: I have a couple of little presentations to the mayor. It’s our tradition. Every year, I give them the official program of the parade; Arthur has put in a little piece on the history. But tomorrow this will be in the cathedral and in the reviewing stand, and we distribute about 8,000 of these tomorrow morning.

So, mayor, I also want to present our official Parade 2024 pin to the mayor. And last year, I was asked to write a brief history of the 69th Regiment in the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and the regiment has honored me this year by getting a thousand of these to distribute to their VIPs tomorrow as well as their rank and file members. So, mayor, I’m going to give you a copy of that as well.

Mayor Adams: Thank you. Thank you. Very much.

Beirne: Would like to, before we raise the flag, just welcome Troy Gallagher from London. He’s the former Mayor of Islington in London, in the back there. Members of the Donegal County Council… Longford County Council, Cavan County Council, and I know there’s another county council. 

Oh, Allan Mulrooney, the CEO of Western Development, is in the back there. And very, very important. There’s a group of ladies here behind the aides, and those are rows of Tralee winners going back as far as 1962.

So, ladies, they’re from all over the world.

And we have the mayor of Jericho, Donegal. Oh, yeah, I said that there. I said Donegal County Council.

I don’t know. So, with that, ladies and gentlemen, we’re going to raise the Irish flag. Somebody is going to do the anthems or bagpipe. Bagpipe.

Mayor Adams: Thank you. I don’t know if he got to speak. Listen, we have one of our important leaders here, Assemblyman Carroll, you know. Okay, you did? Okay, make sure we acknowledge him. And my good friend, former leader, [Jerome.] Good to see you both.

Beirne: I want to recognize Brendon Benn from the International Union of Operating Engineers. He’s the current vice chairman of the parade. And Maggie, if you could just wish everybody a Happy St. Patrick’s Day. [Laughter.]

Margaret Timoney, 2024 Grand Marshal and CEO of Heineken USA: Hilary said you don’t have to speak. Yes, you have to speak, and now you have to speak. So, I also was a bit surprised that I might have to say a few words today. Thank you, mayor, for your lovely words. Thank you, Hilary. And Arthur, especially to you, thank you for all you’re doing as Chairman of the Bowling Green Association.

I have a lot of friends and family sitting here on the left side all wearing green, and we now know and we always know the significance of wearing green in honor of Ireland.

I just want to say one thing. We have a lot, Hercules Mulligan was his name, and that’s an unbelievable name, right, because it’s a mishmash of Irish and something else. We have a lot to thank him for, because in 1762, he and others had the bravery to march for what they stood for.

And I think I get the privilege, and I’m humbled and honored to lead this parade, the 263rd Parade. I’m the sixth woman. I’m only the second Irish born woman. So, in the great words of Cillian Murphy, I’m a proud Irish woman. He was a proud Irish man, so up Cork and up [inaudible].

I just want to say we’re celebrating the theme of women in the Irish community, we also need to celebrate the men in the Irish community and all the communities in the melting pot of New York City.

I get the privilege to lead this parade, but as the unsung heroes that started this in 1762, is the unsung heroes of the aids behind me that do all of the unbelievable volunteer work. The parade committee, the parade board, they keep this going and they do it year after year, century after century.

We will always honor the past, and we will continue to celebrate the bright future of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City. And everyone, please have a brilliant time tomorrow. March proudly, and don’t forget to wear your green. Thank you very much.

March 16, 2024 Manhattan New York

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