By Bill Parry
Parents and caregivers with small babies and toddlers would have easier access to places of entertainment under legislation written and introduced by state Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) which will make spaces more accommodating and family friendly.
The Family Accommodation in Entertainment Act would help bring down the barriers and solve the problems that overwhelm parents when they try to attend events with their young children and can’t find a decent place to change diapers, leave a stroller or breastfeed with privacy.
“This is a practical way to ease the burden on parents and babysitters who want to enjoy entertainment outside their homes,” Simotas said. “If we’re going to claim the moniker of ‘family-friendly’ let’s really help moms and dads who have to grapple with diapers, strollers, feeding and keeping babies safe just to attend an event.”
The new legislation would require places of entertainment such as stadiums, arenas, convention centers, theaters, gardens or other places of amusement to provide accommodations, if readily achievable, including high chairs and booster seats, changing tables in all public restrooms, stroller parking and a private, hygienic location for nursing or pumping breast milk. In addition, public restrooms would have at least one stall with a child protection seat mounted on the wall so that parents and babysitters can use the bathroom without having to juggle the baby.
Christine Serdjenian Yearwood, the fonder and CEO of UP-STAND, an organization that advocates for pregnant women, said, “These accommodations enable parents, caregivers, and children to safely and fully participate in public life and our economy.”
During her 11 years in Albany, Simotas has become a champion of family-friendly and child protection legislation. Measures that she has sponsored or introduced have included establishing the “newborn health and safe sleep pilot program,” permitting pregnant women to enroll in the state health insurance exchange at any time, prohibiting day care centers from using toxic toys, among others.
Kathleen Boyle, founder of the Queens-based Postpartum Project, which advocates for new parents, applauded the introduction of Simotas’ Family Accommodation in Entertainment Act.
“Access to family friendly facilities will greatly aid new mothers: in the first few months of motherhood, establishing a social support system makes a huge difference,” Boyle said. “If new moms know they can care for their children and themselves whenever they go, they will be happy patrons of local establishments.”
A Better Balance co-founder and co-president Dina Bakst is another supporter of the legislation. A Better Balance is a group whose goal it is to make society more hospitable to families.
“It’s time our laws catch up with the reality of modern parenting and ensure that all parents, regardless of gender, have access to the resources they need to care for their families,” she said.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr