IIA Questions Leadership of NYC's Columbus Day Parade
Article in The New York Daily News,
October 10, 2011
The chairman of the Italic Institute of America says the organizers of the Monday's Columbus Day parade need to discover democracy.
Roy Iaconis, who heads up the Floral Park, L.I., organization, tells us that the Manhattan-based Columbus Citizens Foundation – which has been organizing the parade since 1929 – has a virtual monopoly over the parade.
He also complains that the foundation's decision to name one of its own members – insurance broker Joe Plumeri – as the parade's grand marshal "smacks of cronyism."
Iaconis says he would have liked to see Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta or Medal of Honor recipient Salvatore Giunta lead the parade.
Columbus foundation chief Frank Fusaro responds that Plumeri deserves the honor and, citing the foundation's long history with the event, adds that if any other Italian-American organizations are feeling left out, "let them run their own parade."
Iaconis tells us, "I'm not here to undermine Columbus Day. I just want to make it more democratized."
He says it's time for other Italian-American organizations to "play a part in the choice of grand marshal, the line of march, the floats and other key decisions."
"We are marginalized," says Iaconis.
According to the Italic Institute chief, a parade honoring "the admiral of the ocean sea should not be a revenue stream or a membership drive" for the Columbus Club.
As he points out, the foundation makes quite a bit of money selling sponsorships connected to the parade and the foundation's annual gala dinner, which takes place Monday night at the Waldorf-Astoria.
Fusaro responds that "every nickel and dime" that the foundation makes "goes to our scholarship program," which helps some 550 students and other programs that promote Italian culture and language.
Fusaro also calls Plumeri, who's the CEO of Willis Group Holdings, "one of the most philanthropic guys in the world" and says he's the right man for the job.
He also says that "every year," someone complains about the foundation's organization of the event. "I think we do a pretty good job running the parade," Fusaro says. "I'm very proud of what we do and as far as I'm concerned, we're an open book."
The Columbus Day parade is scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. and head up Fifth Ave. from 47th to 72nd Sts.
The festivities will be broadcast on WABC-TV.
Previous grand marshals have included CNBC's Maria Bartiromo and venture capitalist Kenneth Langone.