PATERSON, NJ – Organizers of Paterson’s annual Dominican Parade are expecting a large turnout for Sunday’s event and city officials are expecting a six-figure overtime bill for police security and public works cleanup.
The parade will be the city’s first of the year after several others – including those celebrating Turkish, African-American, Puerto Rican and Peruvian cultures - were canceled or rerouted to neighboring towns when Paterson required organizers of those events to pay fees to cover overtime expenses during a budget crisis.
But Dominican Parade leaders fought the fee policy with a lawsuit charging that their 1st Amendment free speech rights were being violated. In a settlement brokered by a federal court judge, the city agreed to allow the parade to go on without its organizers having to pay any costs.
Paterson Business Administrator Charles Thomas said the overtime for police and public works employees for the parade is projected to cost somewhere between $98,000 and $120,000. That money, Thomas said, is not included in the budget.
The parade is scheduled to start at 11 am on Sunday, an hour earlier than usual. Its route along Park Avenue also will be somewhat shorter, starting at E. 24th St. instead of E. 33rd Str. and ending at Memorial Drive . The earlier start and shorter route were concessions made by parade organizers as part of the lawsuit settlement.
Parade organizers said they expect as many as 25,000 people to attend the parade. “The phone doesn’t stop ringing,’’ said one of the parade organizers, Luis Velez. “Everybody is very excited. They want to get involved.’’
Velez said the controversy over the fees and fears that the event would be canceled as were other parades has generated extra support this year. “The parade went through a difficult situation,’’ Velez said “This woke up the community.”
The post-parade festival, which will be at Market Street and Memorial Drive, will run untl 8 pm and feature 20 live musical performers.