By Madina Toure
Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced Lunar New Year would become an official school holiday starting next February at a news conference at PS 20 in Flushing Tuesday morning.
Speaking before elected officials, community and business leaders and advocates in the Asian community at the atrium of PS 20 at 142-30 Barclay Ave., de Blasio said he is “very comfortable” with the decision and that the issue was implementation.
“The problem was always how to do it right,” he said.
Some argued that the mayor wanted to beat the state Legislature to the punch, but de Blasio said they were all on the same page.
“They were preparing to send a strong message in support,” he explained. “We were never in doubt of getting them to go along.”
De Blasio said the city has time to adjust the school calendar given that the holiday will go into effect in February 2016.
U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing), City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) and state Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing) said they tried to get the school holiday on the calendar under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration and thanked de Blasio for keeping his campaign promise.
“Many thanks to Mayor de Blasio for making good on his promise to our community and to the countless community advocates and government officials for their steadfast support of this effort,” Koo said.
Meng, the original author of a law that requires school boards to consider closing schools on holidays with large student absenteeism, said that while growing up in Queens, she felt her ethnicity was ignored when it came to school holidays.
“It’s been a long road,” she said. “But we finally made it. At long last a school holiday for Lunar New Year will be a reality in New York City and I cannot be more excited.”
Kim said the move reiterates the importance of the Asian culture and heritage.
“This holiday is not about kids just getting a day off from school,” he said. “It’s about the city of New York telling hundreds of thousands of Asian Americans that their culture and heritage is part of the American fabric.”
In March, de Blasio announced official school holidays for Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, two Muslim holidays.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour