The United Staten Island Veterans Organization will hold a “patriotic convoy” on Memorial Day in place of its 101st annual parade after the city canceled all permitted events for the month of May over coronavirus fears.
Thousands typically turn out for the parade along Forest Avenue to honor U.S. military men and women who served their country.
But this year, as many as 25 vehicles will be driven down Forest Avenue by USIVO members and other veterans groups to mark the group’s Memorial Day event. USIVO will also be joined by Rolling Thunder and Island political artist Scott LoBaido.
However, the NYPD has yet to provide USIVO with a police escort for the patriotic convoy, the organization’s CEO James Haynes said.
Haynes said he has not been given any explicit warning from the city that the event cannot take place without an NYPD escort and plans to move forward with the patriotic convoy with or without the escort.
“We’re going to do it … without an escort, we’ll just stop at the red lights,” Haynes said.
“We’re just driving around honoring veterans like they do with the hospitals, they honor the nurses with the drive-by,” he said.
Haynes said he is not discouraging people from showing up and watching the convoy from the sidelines, but asked that people socially distance from one another if they plan on attending.
He said USIVO does not have any crowd control plan in place in the event many people decide to watch on the convoy from the sidelines, and ultimately, would not be able to stop them if they chose to attend.
“We don’t really have the manpower, we would hope they’d know enough to socially distance, I would hope that I guess the police would enforce if they had to,” USIVO Treasurer Lee Covino said when asked what the organization planned to do if people came out to watch the convoy in high numbers.
“But I would think again, at this late date, a lot of people have their plans for Monday already in place, so I don’t anticipate large crowds at the parade unless somebody encourages that in the media.”
Asked whether it would provide USIVO with a police escort or if the convoy could move forward without one, the NYPD was reached but did not return a comment by press time.
CUOMO: 10 PEOPLE OR LESS
Earlier this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state would allow Memorial Day ceremonies of 10 people or less to move forward across the state, but said that any final decisions about ceremonies would be left to local governments.
Cuomo also encouraged “vehicle parades” to honor veterans on the national holiday and said he hoped ceremonies would be broadcast or televised so people could watch them remotely.
USIVO said it does not yet have any plans to live stream the patriotic convoy.
Asked if it would provide USIVO with a police escort or whether the convoy could move forward without one, the NYPD was reached but did not return requests for comment at press time.
City Hall said anyone who wants to watch the patriotic convoy would need to practice social distancing and that cops would be onsite to ensure their safety.
“We want New Yorkers to be able to honor those who have served, those who have been lost and their families. The State is allowing events like this to take place, and we agree it is an appropriate way to commemorate the sacrifices our military has made. Any New Yorker who wants to watch must still practice social distancing and not form any large crowds.” said mayoral spokeswoman Olivia Lapeyrolerie.
The city canceled all permitted events for the months of May and June in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus across the city and Mayor Bill de Blasio has said New York City large public gatherings might not happen for the whole summer.
The mayor has warned that any large gathering would be met with summonses or arrests.
The convoy will begin at noon on May 25 at the intersection of Forest Avenue and Hart Boulevard and will end near Forest Ave. Shoppers Town.
The parade’s grand marshal is Vito Giobbie, a member of Disabled American Veterans and the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 421.
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