NEW Yorkers are gearing up to honor the "heroes and she-roes" of the Persian Gulf war in a June 10 celebration widely billed as "the greatest ticker-tape parade" in the history of New York or any other city. No doubt people will swarm in and tune in from all over the world. More than 2 million people are expected to attend. Special guests include: Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, and Gen. Colin Powell. President Bush and Vice President Dan Quayle have yet to RSVP.
The celebration events - including fireworks and an ecumenical service the night before - are part of "Operation Welcome Home - New York," set up by Mayor David Dinkins, and funded by more than 3,000 individuals and businesses.
Proceeds over the estimated cost of $3 million will go to a "living memorial" to help all New York City veterans and their families for such expenses as housing, job assistance, and scholarships. Veterans from other wars, as well as representatives from other countries in the allied coalition, are invited to participate in the parade, which will wind its way north along Broadway from Battery Park to Worth Street.
A spokesman for the parade says the response to fund-raising efforts has been outstanding - from schoolchildren and veterans groups to company and corporate contributions. At this writing, contributions total $4.3 million, including cash, goods, and services. One company donated 140 miles of yellow ribbon.
Everybody loves a parade.
But in New York even a parade can spark local debate, with remarks and opinions flying like confetti.
On one thing New Yorkers stand united: Support for the troops that served in the Persian Gulf, especially in light of the nation's failure to properly honor those who served in Vietnam.
But on nitty-gritty and city matters such as the crowds, litter, money - let alone politics - everyone has a different opinion.
A taxicab driver wonders if he will get anywhere that day with Broadway blocked off. A shish-kebab vendor says he expects to make a bundle. One environmentally conscious New Yorker says,m all for the parade - if it's biodegradable."
Many hope this parade won't top the 1,254.6 tons of paper showered on the Mets for winning the World Series in 1969. During the last ticker-tape parade, honoring Nelson Mandela, people were discarding whole computer printouts. Ironically, the ticker tape this time has to be brought in from Connecticut, as most of Wall Street is now computerized. Parade organizers say they are working with the sanitation department to make the parade as environmentally sound as possible.
Some New Yorkers are concerned about the timing. "It may be a little premature," says a college professor, since not all troops may be home for the welcome. One man says that he will feel like celebrating only when Sadam Hussein is no longer in power.
"It's a well-intended effort, but the energy is in the wrong place," says a skeptical TV cameraman, who suggests the millions of dollars aimed for the parade might be better directed toward America's domestic needs."There's a difference between commemorating and celebrating - a day in the soup kitchen is more important than throwing pieces of paper at people."
Most agree that the parade and related celebrations will come off as a tremendous success.
"Not bad for a Republican president who just happens to be seeking reelection in 1992," says a female secretary. The event should also help polish the Big Apple's image. "Dinkins ain't no dummy," says one woman. "It'll be great for him and the city's tourist commission."
Despite all this diversity of opinion and concern, New Yorkers are proud that on June 10 all eyes will be on their city and its welcome home celebration.