Today’s news:

Queens reps seek school holiday on Lunar New Year

A group of New York state lawmakers has called for legislation to establish the Asian Lunar New Year as an official school holiday in New Year in recognition of what they called the largest Asian population in America.

State Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and state Sens. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) and Daniel Squadron (D-Manhattan) were among the elected officials and representatives of more than two dozen Asian-American organizations who gathered last Thursday on the steps of City Hall.

“As the only Asian American in the New York State Legislature, I believe that making Lunar New Year an official school holiday will help recognize the important role that Asian Americans have played in our city and state,” Meng said. “Our city and our country prides itself as a multicultural nation and our children want to be able to celebrate both Rosh Hashanah and Lunar New Year with their families and friends.”

Stavisky agreed.

“Asian Americans play an integral role in our community and I am proud to represent more than 100,000 Asian Americans,” Stavisky said. “I am co-sponsoring this legislation because during Lunar New Year it is traditional for families to come together and celebrate their culture. This recognition is long overdue and I am delighted to be a part of it.”

Squadron said, “In Asian-American communities across New York state, Lunar New Year is a celebration of unparalleled importance and joy. That’s why we must respect this culture’s vital role by making Lunar New Year a school holiday.”

In Queens, Asians comprise more than 17 percent of the population of 2.2 million. In Flushing, nearly 55 percent of the population is Asian and Asians make up 12 percent of New York City.

The bill would establish the Asian Lunar New Year as a school holiday for school districts of cities with populations of 1 million or more and with Asian populations of 7.5 percent or more.

In appealing to Mayor Michael Bloomberg to use his influence in favor of the bill, Meng wrote: “As you are aware, under the New York City public school system’s regulations, a student may notify a school in writing of an intended absence for a religious holiday. The absence will be marked as ‘excused’ but still remains an absence on the student’s record. I urge you to make Lunar NewYear an official school holiday.”

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com or phone at 718-260-4536.

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