The Long Green Line
By Marsha Sorotick, Contributor
April / May 2015
In post-WWII New York City, my father worked as a supervisor in the city’s Department of Transportation at the traffic sign shop. The shop was responsible for the care and refurbishment of all signs posted to inform motorists and pedestrians of city traffic regulations and street conditions. The sign shop staff also took care of painting the streets themselves, including bus stops, no-parking zones, and lane markings.
My father, Irving Sorotick, a native New Yorker raised in the Bronx of Polish-Jewish ancestry, always had a raft of Irish friends. From his days as a civilian worker in a police precinct, through his wartime Army services (his unit landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day), to his side business with an Irish-American partner as a television and radio repairman, he appreciated the culture and humor of his pals. It is due to him that I know all the words to all the old “standards.”
One day in the early 1950s, not many weeks before that year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, my father was inspired by his friends to think up an idea that would be a unique New York tribute: Why not paint the white traffic line that ran up Fifth Avenue green for the day of the parade?
As the luck of the Irish would have it, each of my father’s supervisors right up to the commissioner thought it was a grand idea. (And each was Irish-American to boot!) Once the funds were found in the budget, it was just a matter of purchasing the proper color green paint.
That special touch of green became such a tradition that even during the city’s fiscal problems in the later part of the 20th century, private funds were sought and found to keep the tradition going.
Back in the day, individual suggestions weren’t recognized, so the Department of Transportation as a whole took the credit for the idea. But my father’s co-workers knew whose idea it was and that was enough for him. ♦
Ms. Sorotick lives in New York City. Her father Irving passed away in 2000. Aside from his splendid marriage and his Army service, the “long green line” was something that always made him proud.