The Lunar New Year Parade, Year of the Rat, went off today without a hitch and crowds were stacked wide in the streets of Chinatown. (Photo by Todd Maisel)
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The streets of Chinatown were jammed from one side to the other on Sunday for the annual Lunar New Year parade.
The coronavirus scare cast a pall upon much of the Lunar New Year festivities this year, but the Feb. 9 celebration of the “Year of the Rat” was as festive as ever as revelers celebrated from one end of the neighborhood to the other.
The dragons brought luck to this year’s parade as the Department of Health reported no cases of the fear coronavirus, with only one case pending. Officials were hopeful that case, in which the person remains quarantined, would also produce a negative test.
Surgical masks were nearly absent from this parade as organizers, elected officials, costumed characters and visitors alike showed none of the fear caused by news of the virus’ spread in China. Mayor Bill de Blasio and other officials jammed a stage on Hester Street on Mott Street – the heart of Chinatown.
Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, a grand marshal of this year’s parade, said the city and country confronted the SARS outbreak nearly two decades ago, and now they will “successfully confront coronavirus.”
“I’m here to say that Chinatown is open for business and we are behind you and we will remain strong,” Velazquez said. “Last night, I was here dining in a restaurant in Chinatown. I welcome everyone to come here and celebrate the culture and beauty of this community.”
De Blasio said a lot the city faced a lot of hazards in the last 24 hours, including the shooting of two police officers, but the threat of coronavirus has yet to show itself in a “vigilant city.”
“This is such a joyous occasion, and there have been a lot of tough things in the world — police officers attacked, and thankfully, they will be okay,” de Blasio said. “And in China, there are so many of loved ones, faced with coronavirus and we stand together as community. We celebrate New Year together – we are united, and we celebrate this extraordinary Chinese community the largest of any city outside of Asia.”
De Blasio also emphasized the upcoming census that he said will make Chinatown better represented if everyone takes part. He also presented a Proclamation to parade organizer Steven Ting day for his continued work on the parade, proclaiming it “Steven Ting Day.”
Most every elected official had something positive to say, though most warned that any bias against Chinese Americans would “not be tolerated.”
Queens state Senator John Liu warned visitors and New Yorkers alike to stand strong against any racism as a result of the coronavirus.
Leaders ended their speeches with the ceremonial firing of the confetti cannons, sending pieces of colorful paper raining onto the crowds.
The parade stretched for nearly two miles as it snaked through Chinatown past Chatham Square. Residents and visitors were receptive and had little fear.
“I brought my son here and we don’t think there is anything to worry about,” said Mary Murphy, who’s son Kyle waved a red flag. “This is a great day and we are just going to have a good time.”
May Ling brought her daughter to the parade and was equally strong against rumors.
“We will not be afraid – nobody here has tested positive for the virus,” she said. “We must stand with this community and enjoy this incredible parade and the culture.”