Gravesend

Asian-American community applauds mayor on Lunar New Year school closing

June 24, 2015 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Nancy Tong was one of several Asian-American leaders around the city pushing for public schools to be closed for the Lunar New Year holiday. At right is Assemblymember William Colton. Eagle file photo by Paula Katinas

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to have New York’s public schools observe the Lunar New Year holiday is a sign of the growing political clout of the city’s Asian-American community, according to political observers, who noted that the mayor’s decision came after intense pressure from advocates.

The mayor announced on Tuesday that from now on, public schools will be closed in observance of the Lunar New Year, a major holiday celebrated by Asian-Americans.

Nancy Tong, the Democratic District leader of the 47th Assembly District, said she was pleased that the mayor decided to close schools for the Lunar New Year because it signifies the city’s respect for Asian-American New Yorkers.

“I am glad that Mayor Bill de Blasio has made Lunar New Year an official school holiday,” Tong said. “The Asian-American community has been advocating for having public schools closed on Lunar New Year for a number of years, and I’m thankful that the mayor and the Department of Education have listened to our calls and finally have taken action.”

Brooklyn elected officials who had been advocating for the official observance of Lunar New Year expressed support for de Blasio’s decision.

State Sen. Daniel Squadron (D-Brooklyn Heights) said the fact that schools will be closed on the day of the Lunar New Year holiday is a sign that the city is recognizing cultural shifts.

“For years, we pushed so that those who celebrate Lunar New Year are no longer forced to choose between class and their most important cultural holiday,” Squadron said in a statement. “The mayor’s pledge and today’s addition of Lunar New Year to the school calendar send a strong and meaningful message that as the city changes, the school calendar must change with it.”

State Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-Southwest Brooklyn) agreed that it is important for New York City students to not have to miss school for a holiday.

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“It is vitally important that we continue to work together to ensure our entire state remains culturally sensitive and promotes our ethnic diversity,” Golden said.

Earlier this month, the State Legislature adopted legislation sponsored by Golden and Assemblymember Ron Kim (D-Whitestone-Flushing) that established Lunar New Year as an official school holiday for New York City public schools or in communities with an Asian population of 7.5 percent or more.

Currently, 15 percent of all public school students are of Asian-American descent. But in several communities, including places like Bensonhurst, Gravesend and Sunset Park, Asian-American students comprise over 50 percent of the school population. 

The mayor’s decision is “a step in the right direction of being more inclusive of the traditions of all families in our city,” said Assemblymember William Colton (D-Gravesend-Bensonhurst).

“For Asian-American families, Lunar New Year is an important holiday that celebrates their heritage and traditions,” said Councilmember Mark Treyger (D-Coney Island-Gravesend-parts of Bensonhurst), whose parents are from Ukraine. “As a child of immigrant parents, I understand the need to be inclusive of the diverse cultures of our great city.”

In 2016, Lunar New Year falls on Monday, Feb. 8.

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