Flushing’s Asian community feels burned by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s failure to make Lunar New Year a citywide holiday.
De Blasio announced last week that two Muslim holidays, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, would be added to the public school’s calendar as a holiday that will suspend school for two days. But Councilman Peter Koo said that the de Blasio administration promised him the same designation for Lunar New Year, a holiday that was recently celebrated, among others, by Flushing’s Asian community.
“The de Blasio administration did a commendable thing by recognizing the two Eids as important holidays,” Koo said. “What was strikingly absent from this announcement, however, was the declaration of Lunar New Year as a day off for school children as well. My community and I were made to believe that Lunar New Year was going to officially be recognized for the next school year. I was very disappointed.”
He continued, “Someone needs to explain to us why this hasn’t happened, despite being led to believe it would.”
De Blasio and School Chancellor Carmen Fariña have been pushing for Lunar New Year to become a citywide school holiday since the mayor took office, and the two often held rallies in Flushing to promote the idea. With the addition of the two Muslim holidays, there are now 16 official school holidays. State law sets a required number of school days, and the city must rework its school calendar for any additional school holidays.
But students in Flushing, and other Asian communities in New York, didn’t have to go to school this year because of a law that was passed last year.
The law allows the Department of Education to consider closing schools on days where large student absences are expected due to religious or cultural days of observance; it also calls on school districts to consider closing schools on holidays that are important to groups that account for at least 7.5 percent of the local population. According to census data, 57 percent of Flushing population is classified as Asian.
But Koo still wanted an official nod in the form of a citywide public school holiday.
“We worked with the administration when they came into power to work at getting Lunar New Year a holiday designation,” a spokesman for Koo’s office said. “They haven’t given us any explanation. They didn’t tell us why they didn’t do it.”
After last week’s announcement, de Blasio was asked if Lunar New Year would be included in the future.
“I’m going to keep working on that with the chancellor. What we’ve found in this process is that we are in a very tight situation, as I said, with the number of days that we have to achieve each year, so it’s going to take more work to get to that,” de Blasio said last Wednesday. “We remain focused on it, but it will take more work, because we have to balance a lot of factors.”