School's out for Lunar New Year in New York

Updated: 2015-06-24 12:04

By William Hennelly in New York(China Daily USA)

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School's out for Lunar New Year in New York

People hold the parade to celebrate the Lunar New Year at Chinatown, New York on Feb 22. [Provided To China Daily]

Big Apple becomes the second US city to close public schools on the major Asian holiday

Lunar New Year will be an official school holiday in New York City next year.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the decision at a press conference at Public School 20 in Flushing, Queens, on Tuesday, where the student body is 75 percent Asian.

The holiday will be celebrated on Feb 8, making New York the second major US city after San Francisco to close public schools for the holiday.

The press conference followed up on a Tweet by de Blasio on Monday, in which he said he was "working toward a more inclusive city" with the decision.

De Blasio had been pressured by politicians and Asian community leaders after he added two Muslim holidays to the city schools' closure list in March.

Legislation unanimously passed the state Senate earlier this month, and the Assembly also was taking up the bill to mandate the holiday. De Blasio's move fulfills a 2013 campaign pledge.

De Blasio was asked at the press conference what he would do if more communities requested school holidays. The state requires 180 days of school a year.

"We're talking about, in both the case of the Eid holidays with the Muslim community, and the case of Lunar New Year with the many communities that celebrate it - cumulatively very large communities, and growing communities," the mayor said. "And that was also part of the consideration. How big are these communities? And what do we project the community size to be going forward?

"There are some other communities I think can make a perfectly strong argument, but we have to take into account the size of the community," he said.

De Blasio also praised the push for the holiday by US Congresswoman Grace Meng.

"I can tell you there have been many times when Congress member Grace Meng has raised this issue to me," he said. "She has been resolute - fought for it when she was in Albany, and has continued since she's gone to D.C."

"Mr. Mayor, although I continued to nudge you, I always had faith in you; and never for a moment, doubted that you would come through," Meng, who was at the school for the announcement, said in a press release. "You get it. You understand the rich and vibrant diversity of our great city. You realize how important it is for our school system to recognize all the important holidays observed by the cultures and ethnicities that exist throughout the five boroughs.

"When I was growing up in Queens, I often felt that my ethnicity was ignored or forgotten about when it came to school holidays," she said. "I always wondered why school was closed for my Jewish friends on their New Year - on Rosh Hashanah - but not for my New Year; and many kids and parents of Asian descent have continued to wonder why to this very day.

"When I first sponsored the bill (in the New York state Assembly), there wasn't much support for it, outside the Asian-American community," Meng said. "People even laughed at it and said over and over again that it would never happen. But I knew deep down that momentum would eventually build for it, and that one day, with hard work, its time would finally come. And now, here we are. I could not be prouder to have led the charge on it.

"The Asian-American community continues to grow and mature, and the move to establish a school holiday is the right and fair decision," she said.