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City Recognizes Lunar New Year

By Larry Tung

Councilmember John Liu of Flushing – the first Asian American elected to the New York City Council – hopes that some day his community will receive the same recognition enjoyed by other ethnic groups in New York.

Suspending alternate of the street parking regulations for the Asian Lunar New Year, Liu argues, is a first step.

"It’s not about the day. It’s not about parking regulations being suspended," said Liu. "It’s about recognizing that Asian-Americans have contributed to the city. We should get the same level of respect and attention that everybody else gets."

The city’s alternate parking rules require drivers to park on different sides of the street on different days to make way for street cleaning trucks. However, the city suspends the regulation for state and federal holidays and 18 additional holidays designated by the city, including religious celebrations like Rosh Hashanah, Yum Kippur, and Good Friday.

Liu’s bill to suspend parking regulations for the Asian New Year, which begins February 1, was first passed by the City Council in September, but was vetoed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The mayor argued that the city loses up to $300,000 a day in parking fines.

On November 7, the council overrode the mayor’s veto and made it a law.

John Kuo Wei Tchen, a professor of Asian Pacific American studies at New York University, says that recognition of the Lunar New Year, which is celebrated by Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese and other Asian cultures, is long overdue.

"This is a good beginning, but by no means enough," said Tchen. "Also there are symbolic politics being played so that it’s also recognition of the importance, politically, of the growing number of Chinese people."

Tony Cai, a co-owner of Top Model Salon on Bayard Street, applauds the City Council for its new law and hopes it will inspire Asian Americans to become more politically active.

"In America, most Chinese people don’t fight for their rights," Cai said. "Our philosophy is to go with the flow and let things happen, which is very different from some other ethnic groups."

Councilmember Liu argues that in many ways the Asian-American community is still not on the political map in New York.

"I often get asked in the Asian community how the budget cuts are going to affect us," said Liu. "I often say there is good news and bad news. The good news is that budget cuts aren’t going to affect us a whole lot. The bad news is that we are not getting much anyway. It’s hard to cut from zero."

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