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Levy told to put sign away at St. Patrick's Parade

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy during the annual

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy during the annual St. Patrick's Day parade in Manhattan. (March 17, 2010) Photo Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

All Steve Levy wanted was to march in the Manhattan's St. Patrick's Day parade.

But organizers stopped him when he showed up without a group and with a banner bearing his name, both of which are against parade bylaws.

As Levy, a Democrat who is considering running as a Republican for governor, reached Fifth Avenue and 47th Street, several parade representatives approached him and asked him to put away a 3-foot-by-6-foot plastic banner reading "Steve Levy Suffolk County Executive."

"You gotta take this down right now," one official said. "You can't open that again."

Levy and the two aides accompanying him folded the banner and continued the remainder of the route on their own.

Asked if he had been invited to march, Levy said his office "reached out to . . . [the parade committee] and they said it would be fine and we're happy to be here."

However, Hilary Berne, the secretary of the parade committee, who coordinated the 200 groups marching Wednesday, said he was not aware of contact from Levy's office.

"He didn't reach out to any member of the parade committee, and if he had, we would have advised him on the proper procedure," Berne said.

John Lahey, the vice chairman of the St. Patrick's Day Parade Committee, said long-standing parade rules prohibit signs or banners and require all marchers to do so with approved groups.

"We don't let individuals march as individuals in the parade. No individual gets authority to march in the parade by themselves, with or without a sign," Lahey said. "I don't know what . . . [Levy's] talking about."

When asked during the parade why he decided to walk by himself, Levy replied, "If you are going like a gaggle of geese, nobody is going to know that you are there. So you might as well go on your own."

Later Wednesday, Levy spokesman Dan Aug, who did not attend the parade with Levy, said Levy had not been invited by any group, but was told by parade officials to meet at West 44th Street, where a contingent of New York City elected officials was to gather.

Aug said Levy noticed that a nearby group of Irish-American legislators had a sign, so he took his out as well.

Told of the parade rules barring individuals not with a group, Aug said, "I'm not sure that he was aware of that."

Wednesday's incident was not Levy's first sign skirmish at a parade. In March 2008, he ran afoul of rules forbidding political signs at East Islip's St. Patrick's Day parade by carrying a 5-foot sign bearing his name. He removed it when asked, but later put it back up and finished the parade, according to stories at the time.

On the parade route Wednesday, Levy said marching alone is "the best way to go."

"If you are going to be walking along with about 40 people, no one is going to pick you out of that crowd," he said. "That's the way I do it even in my own hometown."

With Pervaiz Shallwani

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