So You Want to Throw a Parade?

At eleven o'clock this morning, the 77th annual Columbus Day Parade, sponsored by the Columbus Citizen's Foundation, started making its way up Fifth Avenue. Yesterday the Hispanic Day Parade marched the same route. On Saturday, the Korean American Parade took over Broadway. In total, New York will see some 79 parades this year. How do you get permission to put on one of your own?

It all starts with an application to the Police Department. A parade permit — and a new NYPD proposal says any congregation of 30 or more people or 20 or more bikes constitutes a parade — requires a jam-packed one-page application. The form demands details ranging from the "character" of the applying organization ("social, political, etc.") and the expected number of participants to the type of vehicles and/or animals included in the event. Planning to carry shotgun? Fire one? There are check boxes for that, too. The route and formation and dismissal times are chosen by the applicant, and the form must be submitted at least 36 hours before the would-be parade.

Don't bother requesting yet another procession on Fifth Avenue. The city has banned any new parades there. And forget any other place and time that has traditionally hosted another event, because those are off-limits too — which pretty much kills your big plan for a conga line down Broadway on the third Thursday in November.

The city provides cops and sanitation for parades, and it picks up the tab. The NYPD won't discuss deployment specifics, but it has some presence at all permitted parades. The sanitation department is more forthcoming: Last year, it sicced 42 workers on the Columbus Day Parade aftermath, who collected 23.5 tons of celebratory debris. It took them six to eight hours, at a cost to the city — to you — of about $13,000. Which, you might argue, is a small price to pay for a day without alternate-side parking rules.

— Hope Reeves