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Fire Islanders Ditch Bay Shore St. Pat’s Parade Over Ferryman Grand Marshal

Bay Shore St. Patrick's Day parade
Students from Fire Island’s Woodhull School marching in the 2019 Bay Shore St. Patrick’s Day parade. (Long Island Press/Timothy Bolger)

Ocean Beach residents and firefighters didn’t  march in the Bay Shore St. Patrick’s Day parade in protest of the grand marshal, the Fire Island Ferries owner who suspended service to the village.

Parents of students who attend the Fire Island School District’s Woodhull School and the Ocean Beach Fire Department are regulars in the parade, which was scheduled to step off at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 12. But they backed out after their village was hit Tuesday with an unprecedented service suspension by Timothy Mooney, the parade’s grand marshal who owns the ferry company currently in a heated contract dispute with the Village of Ocean Beach.

“We don’t want to stand behind a man who has cut off our lifeline to the community,” said Lauren Chenault, a parent of two students at Woodhull who estimated she is among about 20 parents and students who backed out. “We don’t want him representing our community.”

Some parents, however, did go on to march in the parade and the Fire Island school principal noted that neither the district nor its PTA officially boycotted the event because of Mooney.

The ferry company nixed service to the village after Ocean Beach officials insisted the company pay an annual rent increase to use its ferry terminal and the company demanded a reduction in terms, with neither side budging. As a result, the ferry company is now routing passengers to neighboring Seaview, where utility companies are currently performing heavy construction at the terminal, and freight cargo is being shipped more than a mile away to Ocean Bay Park. It’s believed to be the first time in 70 years that the company followed through on a threat to suspend service over a contract impasse instead of the usual reason of the Great South Bay freezing over.

“A big part of us pulling out was because of that,” said OBFD Chief Ian Levine, who noted the stormy weather forecast for Saturday was also a consideration in the decision. “We’ve been dealing with the Mooney family and Fire Island Ferries since I was a kid riding those boats. It’s a shame that we’ve gotten to this.”

Organizers of the parade did not immediately comment on the Mooney situation. Mooney continued to blame the village.

“It is disappointing that some people have chosen not to participate in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade,” said Mooney. “I would encourage them to ask the mayor and village board why the Village of Ocean Beach refused to negotiate a new contract for over a year and why they are not negotiating in good faith. We are committed to negotiating a fair contract that is mutually beneficial.”

Ocean Beach Mayor James Mallott maintained that the blame belongs to Mooney.

“The Mooneys continue to withhold service to [Ocean Beach] because we refuse to be held hostage to their demands of a 30% decrease in rent,” Mallott said. “We have offered to reduce the rent by half to continue service until a contract is signed, we have offered binding arbitration, anything to get the ferries back.”

Village residents remain angry with Mooney.

“Nobody wants to politicize such a joyous event as a parade, but to honor a man who is at this point causing my town great hardship and potentially devastating hardship this summer, is really a struggle,” said Ocean Beach Association President Maria Silsdorf. “People in Ocean Beach take it really personally. He’s really screwing us. His success is on our shoulders and now he’s kicking sand in our faces.”

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