By Brooklyn Reader

March 16, 2015, 11:26 am

  Click here to view original web page at www.kingscountypolitics.com

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State Sen. Daniel Squadron
State Sen. Daniel Squadron

State Senator Squadron, who represents Manhattan’s Chinatown along with parts of northern Brooklyn, along with Flushing Assemblymember Ron Kim and Congressmember Grace Meng, today,hosted a rally with elected officials, community leaders and advocacy groups from across New York City to add Lunar New Year as a school holiday to the 2015-16 school calendar.

The rally ramps up the pressure on Mayor Bill de Blasio, who last week added the Muslim holidays of Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr as school holidays, while ignoring his pledge to do the same for the Lunar New Year.  New York City has the largest Asian-American population of all the cities in the country and Brooklyn already has two Chinatown neighborhoods – Sunset Park and Homecrest – with swelling Asian American populations in Bensonhurst and Gravesend.

Squadron, Kim and Meng were supported by a large contingent of city, state and federal lawmakers including from Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Congressmembers Jerrold Nadler and Nydia Velazquez, State Senator Marty Golden and City Councilmembers Vinnie Gentile and Mark Treyger.

“There are six months until school starts, and 332 days until the Year of the Monkey — more than enough time for the Mayor to keep his pledge on Lunar New Year as a school holiday,” said Squadron. “Absentee rates are as high as 80% on Lunar New Year in certain schools in my district and across the city. Students should no longer have to choose between their most important cultural holiday and missing class, and to acknowledge the city’s ongoing change. It’s great news that public schools will be closed on Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, and it’s essential that Lunar New Year have the same result.”

“For far too long, Asian American kids, including myself, grew up in this city feeling marginalized and ‘un-American’ for celebrating their culture. It is really amazing that schools will be recognizing these important Muslim holidays so that our Muslim students won’t have to feel the way many of our Asian students do,” said Kim. “Acknowledging some cultures but not others, the Mayor is playing a dangerous game by invalidating and further marginalizing ethnic communities. Let’s use this chance to celebrate our diversity, not fuel deeper divides in our city.”

Asian-American students comprise approximately 15 percent of all public school students in New York City. Currently, students who celebrate the Lunar New Year holiday receive an “excused” absence, meaning they miss a full day of classes and have the absence marked on their record.

In 2014, Kim and Squadron passed legislation requiring the city Department of Education (DOE) consider closing schools if a holiday is likely to result in “a considerable proportion” of students being absent. This year, Lunar New Year fell during an already scheduled winter break, but in 2016, Lunar New Year falls on Monday, February 8.

“I join with my colleagues in urging the Mayor to authorize a public school holiday in New York City recognizing Lunar New Year. Our City is rich with much Asian culture and heritage, and it is only fair that we recognize fully the special meaning of this holiday,” said Golden. “It should no longer be necessary for our school children and teachers, to miss a day of school and work respectively, to celebrate Lunar New Year. New York State law has been changed giving the City the power to authorize such a school closing, and I hope that the 2015-2016 school year calendar will reflect that.”

“My district in southern Brooklyn is next-door neighbors to a large, vibrant and thriving Chinatown in Sunset Park,” said Gentile. “For Asian families, there is no holiday more important than bright and festive Lunar New Year and I would support adding Lunar New Year to the New York City public school calendar as an official holiday.”

“As someone who proudly represents thousands of residents who celebrate the Lunar New Year, I am joining the call for New York City to finally do the right thing and close schools on this important holiday,” said Treyger.”The Mayor may need more time before he can make Lunar New Year an official holiday, and we would like to give him that understanding and time. But I ask this, how can we, as community leaders, face our community, who keeps on asking us why he hasn’t responded?” said Peter Tu, Executive Director of the Flushing Chinese Business Association.

“In New York City, there is no faster growing community than the Asian American population, and in this community, there is no more important holiday than the Lunar New Year. This holiday is significant to our culture, and is something that we, as parents, want to pass down to our children. Our communities want to be sure to preserve some of our most important traditions generation after generation. Forcing our families to choose between a test or an important school day and preserving our cultural values is not something a family should be having to debate every year. Recognizing Lunar New Year as a holiday would make it possible for our parents and families to not have to choose between our value of preserving our culture and our value of education. As a parent representing many of our Asian parents, I urge the Mayor to keep his promise and recognize our most important holiday,” said Pauline Chu, President of the Chinese-American Parents Association.

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