As an elected District Leader with a large South Asian and Indo-Caribbean population, I make this appeal on behalf of the more than 300,000 Hindu, Sikh, Jain and Buddhist families living in NYC, and urge Governor Hochul to sign the bill passed by the state legislature creating a Diwali school holiday in the city’s public schools, into law. Most importantly, we urge Mayor Adams to make it permanent in the city’s public school calendar. We have been fighting for decades to consolidate the universal message of “light over darkness, good over evil,” that Diwali signifies.
The original piece of legislation called for the elimination of Brooklyn-Queens Day, or Anniversary Day, to comply with Education law §3604(7) and Commissioner’s Regulations §175.5 that require districts to provide a minimum of 180 education days.
Consequently, Anniversary Day would have had to be eliminated. However, the recently passed legislation does not swap this holiday with Diwali specifically, as required, presenting a conundrum, a hurdle which should have been cleared before putting the bill up for a vote by AM Jenifer Rajkumar.
The bill that passed does not eliminate Brooklyn-Queens Day, but only establishes Diwali as a New York City school holiday, thereby creating the necessary question as to how the holiday will fit into the school’s calendar, which can only be solved by the Mayor and his Department of Education.
Diwali falls on a Sunday this year, but the Mayor and his Chancellor must realize that they can no longer punt and pander on this issue, having previously declared “Diwali to be a holiday,” and that “once he was elected, he would take his oath of office and walk into City Hall and sign it into a holiday.”
Albert Baldeo, District Leader
President, Asian American Labor Alliance (Richmond Hill)
President, Richmond Hill Democratic Club
The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the THE WEST INDIAN.