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Last updated: Oct. 26, 2007

The NYC Diwali Parking Holiday Saga
By Sree Sreenivasan

THE 30-SECOND STORY: In Nov. 2005, New York City Council passed a bill adding Diwali to its long list of major holidays on which it suspends alternate-side-of the street parking (ie, no street cleaning that day, so cars that are street-parked need not be moved by owners to allow the cleaning trucks to come through). Hinduism was the largest religion not to be represented on the list. The bill was passed in 2005, then Mayor Michael Bloomberg vetoed it (he is opposed to adding any new parking-free days to the calendar); but the council had enough votes to override his veto. This wrangling took too long to mark the holiday in 2005 itself. 2006 was the first observation, but it well on a weekend, when it was mostly unnoticed. In 2007, it falls on Friday, Nov. 9, which means it will affect more people. Updates below and various angles, too. Udai Tambar, who helped lead the community effort on this, has a 2007 update below.

Below: 

2005 background

NYC.gov

The text of the bill

 

Elsewhere the Web:

Press contacts:

  • Community coordinator: Udai K Tambar, udai_tambar [at] yahoo.com
  • Councilwoman Gale Brewer's office (she introduced the bill) Shulamit Warren, director of legislation and budget, shula.warren@council.nyc.ny.us or 212.788.6975.

Opponents of the bill:

  • Mayor's office: Edward Skyler, director of communications and
    Press Secretary for the Mayor, 212.788.2958
  • John Laxmi, Indian American opposed to the bill (see comments below)
o o o o o

Update: Oct. 26, 2007
From Udai Tambar udai_tambar [at] yahoo.com

Sree,

This year New York City will observe Diwali by suspending alternate side
parking rules on November 9 (Friday).

As you may remember, in November 2005 the New York City Council passed a
bill adding Diwali to its list of major holidays on which it suspends alternate side parking rules. Now, Diwali is one of the 34 legal and religious holidays on which this regulation is suspended
(http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/motorist/scrintro.shtml).

In 2005 the legislation passed too late for it to take effect on Diwali and last year Diwali fell over the weekend so it did not have any practical implications (I believe alternate side parking rules are suspended during the weekend). So 2007 will be the first year that Diwali will impact the
lives of most New Yorkers.

o o o o o

Update: Oct. 18, 2006
From Udai Tambar udai_tambar [at] yahoo.com

Last year, the NYC Council passed a bill over Mayor Bloomberg's veto to suspend alternate side of the street parking on Diwali. This year is the first year the law goes in effect. By chance, this year Diwali falls on a Saturday (10/21 - some may argue with the date but that is the one the City is using). Since parking rule
suspensions impact NYers during the weekdays, practically speaking, the City's observance of Diwali this year makes little difference. Hopefully, next year the festival will fall on a weekday and NYers will know why parking rules have been suspended.

o o o o o 

2005 BACKGROUND

Press release from Councilwoman Gale Brewer's office (she introduced the bill)

Sept. 28, 2005: The New York City Council unanimously approved Intro 420-A (45-0, no abstentions) at this afternoon's Stated Council Meeting. This legislation, introduced by Council Member Gale A. Brewer (D-Manhattan), suspends alternate side of the street parking rules in recognition of the Hindu Festival of Diwali. Intro 420-A marks the inclusion of the festival to a set of state and national holidays, as well other cultural and religious holidays such as Yom Kippur, Ash Wednesday, and Eid Ul-Fitr, when alternate side of the street parking rules are suspended.

The Mayor has 30 days from today to decide to either sign or veto the bill. If there is a veto, the Council has the institutional support for a unanimous override at the following Stated Meeting (while only a two-thirds majority vote, ie 34 members is required). The two October Stated meetings are scheduled for Tuesday the 11th and Thursday the 27th. This local law shall take effect immediately after its enactment into law. It is our hope that the law will be enacted by this year's November 1st Diwali celebration.

Please contact Shulamit Warren, Director of Legislation and Budget in the Office of Council Member Gale A. Brewer with all inquiries at shula.warren@council.nyc.ny.us or 212.788.6975.

o o o o o

From: Sree Sreenivasan <ss221@columbia.edu>
To: saja@columbia.edu
Date: Sep 27, 2005 3:54 PM
Subject: UPDATE: Diwali Parking issue and getting the word out

- please pass this onto any South Asians, including Indo-Caribbeans, you know in
and out of NYC; the initative needs everyone's support! The headline is:
there's a Wednesday 11:30 am event that needs attendees - please pass it
on! -

[bloggers: this e-mail and other background materials are available at
http://www.sree.net/stuff/diwaliparking.html - if you send your links to
sree@sree.net, I will link it.]

An update on the Diwali Parking issue in NYC. You don't have to live in NYC to
help desi America take a big step forward. Many thanks to all those who wrote
letters and otherwise helped make last week possible.

Please see below for a note from Udai Tambar about the latest on the NYC Diwali
parking initiative. It's been approved unanimously by the City Council's
transportation committee, but there's a good chance Mayor Bloomberg will veto
it.

See below for the following - and pass this on; there are things non-New
Yorkers can do as well.

1. Udai Tambar's update and detailed information on what folks can do,
especially attending a press conference at City Hall this Wednesday at 11:30 am
- you don't need to be a journalist to attend. Any member of the community is
welcome to attend. If you are free, please go - or send children, cousins,
friends, etc - the raw numbers make a difference. If you are a journalist,
please consider covering this. Udai also says that any of you who have
"connections" to the Mayor or his administration or his campaign should have a
word about this. There are big desi donors and supporters who can reasonably
ask why he'd want to veto this a month before the election.

2. A list of religious and ethnic holidays on which NYC already suspends
alternate-side-of-the-street parking. Note the wide range of religions
represented. Also below, an analysis of the significance of all this - from a
fellow New Yorker - not a Hindu!

3. A story from Newsday about last week's developments.

4. A story from Bloomberg News (founded by the Mayor, but an independent news
service) about last week's developments. This particular story was on the front worldwide
TOP section of the service, making it one of the top five general stories for a day

My thought on all this is that, yes, NYC cannot accommodate every holiday that
every small group wants to accommodate. But we are not talking about a small
group here. There are hundreds of thousands of Hindus from various countries in
the NYC area (India, Guyana, Trindad & Tobago, Nepal, Malaysia, etc, etc;
according to the NYC Dept. of Planning, there are more than 600,000
foreign-born South Asians in the metro region - that's NOT counting second- and
third-generation New Yorkers; and at least one Indian Hindu born in Tokyo -
me!) When you look at that list of religious/ethnic holidays, how can you
possibly justify keeping ONE Hindu festival off it?

Please see the materials below and pass it on...

Sreenath Sreenivasan | sree@sree.net | 212-854-5979
Dean of Students, Columbia Graduate School of Journalism
http://www.sree.net | http://www.sreetips.com
BLOG: New to Sree - http://www.sreetips.com/new


o o o o o

From: Udai K Tambar 

Sree,

Thanks for spreading the word about the NYC Council Transportation
Committee hearing on suspending alternate side of the street parking on
the third day of Diwali (Lakshmi Puja).  I want to give you an update of
what happened, what else needs to happen, the political landscape, and
what people can do to make the legislation proposal into law.

What has happened so far: The NYC Council Transportation Committee
unanimously approved the proposed the legislation.  Numerous community
groups testified in support of the legislation, which showed legislators
the community's interest.  This is a great first step.  The Mayor's
administration testified against the legislation (more on that below).

What else needs to happen: The legislation will be voted on by the full
NYC Council at the Stated Meeting on Wednesday, September 28, 2005.
When the majority of the 51 Council Members approve the legislation it
will then go to Mayor Bloomberg to be signed into law.  Then the Mayor
will have 30 days to sign or veto the legislation.  Only when the mayor
signs the legislation does it become law and alternate side of the
street parking is suspended on Diwali.  If he vetoes it, the legislation
is sent back to the Council, which can override his veto with a 2/3
majority at the next Stated Meeting.

The political landscape: It is expected that the legislation will be
approved by the full Council at the Stated Meeting on September 28.  But
it is likely that the Mayor will veto it.  Here are a few clippings from
the media that articulate his stance:

-Bernard Sullivan, chief of cleaning at the Sanitation Department, said
"Legislation recognizes the Hindu in prepared remarks to the City Council
Transportation Committee that there are already 39 days when they can't sweep
the curbs.  Adding to it would "greatly impact community cleanliness," he said.
Sullivan also said the department has opposed similar proposals for other
holidays in the past. - By Bryan Virasami (NY Newsday, September 21, 2005)

-Mayor Michael Bloomberg intends to oppose the bill, said his spokesman, Jordan
Barowitz. ``We will testify against it because it means another day when the
streets don't get cleaned,'' Barowitz said. - By Henry Goldman (Bloomberg News,
September 20, 2005)

What can the community do: First, show up to a press conference at 11:30
a.m. on Wednesday, September 28, 2005, on the steps of City Hall.
Council Member Gale A. Brewer (prime sponsor of the bill) and
Transportation Committee Chairman John C. Liu will hold the press
âconference.  The press conference is before the Stated Meeting but is a
great opportunity for the public (and Mayor) to visualize the support
behind the bill.  To get to city hall, take the A,C,E to Chambers Street
or the 4,5,6,R,W to City Hall.

Second, let the mayor know the community's support and interest in this
legislation.  If community members have any "ins" to the Mayor - Deputy
mayors, Commissioners, high ranking members of his administration, or
his campaign staff - let them know of your support.

Members of the media or other concerned community members can voice the
community's interest by inquiring about his stance against the bill.
The bill marks the inclusion of Diwali to a set of state and national
holidays, as well other cultural and religious holidays such as Yom
Kippur, Ash Wednesday, and Eid Ul-Fitr, when alternate side of the
street parking rules are also suspended.  This local law shall take
€effect immediately after its enactment into law.  Meaning, the city
could recognize Diwali this Year!

I'm not sure who is the best person for the media to contact, but a good
place to start would be Edward Skyler, Director of Communications and
Press Secretary for the Mayor.  I believe he can be reached at
212.788.2958 or eskyler@cityhall.nyc.gov (I got the number from a press
release and guessed the email address; your members may have more
accurate information).

Thanks for all of your help.  Feel free to contact me with any
questions.

Best,
Udai
917.601.0153

2005 Alternate Side Parking Rules Suspension Calendar
http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/motorist/scrintro.html#calendar2005

An edited version, only showing the religious/ethnic holiday, not such things
as President's Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day.

Holiday         Date/Day
Idul-Adha: First/Second/Third Day       January 20-22, Thurs-Fri-Sat
Asian Lunar New Year    Feb 9, Wed
Ash Wednesday   February 9, Wed
Holy Thursday   March 24, Thurs
Good Friday     March 25, Fri
Purim   March 25, Fri
Passover: First/Second Day      April 24-25, Sun-Mon
Holy Thursday (Orthodox)        April 28, Thurs
Good Friday (Orthodox)  April 29, Fri
Passover: Seventh/Eighth Day    April 30-May 1, Sat-Sun
Solemnity of Ascension  May 5, Thurs
Shavuot: First/Second Day       June 13-14 , Mon-Tues
âFeast of Assumption    August 15, Mon
Rosh Hashanah: First/Second Day         October 4-5, Tues-Wed
Yom Kippur      October 13, Thurs
Succoth: First/Second Day       October 18-19, Tues-Wed
Shemini Atzereth        October 2, Tues
Simchas Torah   October 26, Wedi
All Saints Day  November 1, Tues
Idul-Fitr: First/Second/Third Day November 3-5, Thurs-Fri-Sat
Immaculate Conception   December 8, Thurs
Christmas Day*  December 25, Sun
Christmas Day (Observed)*       December 26, Mon

Asterisk (*) indicates Major Legal Holidays.

[A note from a New Yorker who's NOT a Hindu about the significance of this]


Thought I might share with you an explanation I gave
someone about the significance of parking rules in NYC.

The suspension of parking regulations (though it may sound strange to non-New
Yorkers) is really a step or two below declaring a city public holiday.

The only official religious holiday for the city is Christmas. All other
religions, including Judaism, do not get any. (The other ten holidays as
non-sectarian.)

Therefore, the suspension of alternate sides parking is considered a
recognition of the feast/holiday just short of declaring a city public holiday.
(It is, in effect, a compromise worked out over decades to avoid expanding the
roster of public holidays to accomodate other religious observances.)
http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcas/html/resources/440_2r.shtml

There are 35 days on which alternative side of street parking is suspended;
these include 11 official city holidays.

Of the other 24, ten can be broadly classified as Christian (though these
include two observed only by Orthodox Christians and two pertaining to Virgin
Mary only by Catholics); nine are Jewish; two are Muslim, one non-sectarian
Asian, and two secular holidays.
http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/motorist/scrintro.html#calendar2005

o o o o o

Alternate views: It is typical of our "community" to put their show of force behind things that really don't impact anyone's quality of life in any tangible way. I'll contact Bloomberg's office to make sure that these folks don't speak for all "Hindus" in NYC. - A New York Hindu who wishes to remain anonymous.

From: John Laxmi <johnlaxmisajadisc@gmail.com>

Happy Diwali! I don't want to be a Diwali party pooper, but as a regular commuter to New York City for the past 20+ years and an American of Indian origin, I should point out to all Diwali enthusiasts that there are competing virtues in approaching these issues.

On the one hand, Americans benefit a great deal from learning about Diwali and about values and rituals of the world's many religions and cultures; on the other hand, adhering to parking regulations, even the notoriously unpopular "alternate day parking rules" of New York, are part of our American civic values, of being orderly and cooperative and thoughtful towards our sanitation workers and neighbors to keep the city clean.

Granted, "civic values" are not something that come to one's mind immediately when one thinks of New Yorkers but, do we want to dilute whatever little civic values we have in the City even further by claiming yet more exemptions from rules? Especially, rules, which are designed to keep the city clean and facilitate the work of sanitation crews?

The instinct to claim "exemptions" from rules over Diwali is understandable; instead, why not try a different approach, one which might introduce Diwali in far brighter colors to Americans? On Diwali day or the weekend around Diwali, volunteers of all religions could be rounded up to clean the city and promote healthy vegetarian diet. This would help the neighborhood while also spreading the word about Diwali and Hinduism.

Regards,
John Laxmi, New Jersey

o o o o o

Newsday
Sept. 21, 2005

Council committee defies city on Hindu holiday vote

BY BRYAN VIRASAMI
STAFF WRITER

September 21, 2005

Despite opposition from the Bloomberg administration, a City Council committee
Tuesday voted unanimously to approve legislation adding Diwali to the list of
holidays that alternate-side-of-the-street parking rules would be suspended.

The full council will vote later this month on whether to suspend the parking
rules for street cleaning for the popular Hindu holiday.

Bernard Sullivan, chief of cleaning at the Sanitation Department, said in
prepared remarks to the City Council Transportation Committee that there are
already 39 days when they can't sweep the curbs.

Adding to it would "greatly impact community
cleanliness," he said. Sullivan also said the department has opposed similar
proposals for other holidays in the past.

Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing), chairman of the committee, didn't buy the
argument.

"It's a question of fairness. There's a very substantial portion of New Yorkers
who hold this holiday in high reverence," Liu said.

Some Hindus and community leaders say that Diwali, one of India's major
religious holidays, which is observed by Hindus around the world, deserves the
honor.

Tara Singh, a community activist and spokesman for the Bhuvaneshwar Mandir of
Queens in Ozone Park, said the administration's opposition to the holiday is
âakin to a slap on the face.

"Most people go to church on that day and they need to park and parking is a
problem in the city," Singh said. "It's a question of equal protection under
the Constitutition. Some groups get it, and why can't we get it?"

Thousands of Hindus in the city, most of whom emigrated from India, Guyana or
Trinidad, observe the holiday, which goes back thousands of years.

The holiday, also called the Festival of Lights, originates from a historical
religious story symbolic of the triumph of good over evil, Singh said.

In observance, families get together and share food and light up pathways,
windows and other sections of their homes.

o o o o o

Bloomberg News
2005-09-20 17:00 (New York)

NYC's Hindus Seek Clout With Holiday Parking Change (Update1)

By Henry Goldman
To contact the reporter on this story:
Henry Goldman at City Hall at (1) (212) 964-9157 or
hgoldman@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Glenn Holdcraft at (1) (212) 617-8968 or
gholdcraft@bloomberg.net.


Sept. 20 (Bloomberg) -- New York City requires drivers to
give up parking spaces on one side of most blocks at least once
a week for street-cleaning, except 39 days a year for legal or
religious holidays. Now a 40th day is being considered.
    Today, a City Council committee is to begin considering
whether to add the first Hindu holiday, the festival of Diwali,
to a calendar that recognizes Christian, Jewish and Muslim holy
days, major legal holidays and the Asian Lunar New Year.
    New York's Indian population, including many Hindus, grew
80 percent between 1990 and 2001, to 171,000, according to the
U.S. Census Bureau. New York is also home to more than 150,000
ethnic South Asians from Guyana Trinidad and Tobago, many of
whom practice Hinduism.
    ``It might seem a strange way to show recognition but it's
what's meaningful to this community, which is trying to assert
itself into the civil life of New York City,'' said Council
member Gale Brewer of Manhattan, the bill's primary sponsor,
who said Indian members of her staff brought the issue to her
attention.
    Mayor Michael Bloomberg intends to oppose the bill, said
his spokesman, Jordan Barowitz. ``We will testify against it
because it means another day when the streets don't get
cleaned,'' Barowitz said.
    The bill, which has 13 sponsors, was approved by the
council's transportation committee without opposition this
afternoon and scheduled for a Sept. 28 vote by the full 51-
member council. In the event the mayor vetoes the bill, the
council can make it law with an override vote of 34.

                            Lights

    Diwali, which falls on the first new moon of the Hindu
calendar, in October or November each year, is also known as
the ``festival of lights.'' It signifies renewal and triumph
over evil, according to the Web site of the Indian government,
and is characterized by decoration of houses with oil lamps,
candles and strings of electric lights. The estimated date this
year is Nov. 1, according to the Web site of the Society for
the Confluence of Festivals in India.
    Tens of thousands of New Yorkers observe the holiday by
going to one of the city's 15 Hindu temples, said Uma
Mysorekar, president of the Hindu Temple Society of North
America, a congregation of 22,000 based in the Flushing section
of Queens.
    ``It's an important faith like all the faiths in the
city,'' Mysorekar said. ``Why shouldn't we have our parking
suspended? We have thousands going to temple and visiting
homes.''
    In addition to U.S. legal holidays such as Memorial Day
and Thanksgiving, New York's alternate-side parking rules are
suspended for 21 religious holidays including Christian
holidays such as Good Friday and the Feast of the Assumption,
Jewish observances such as Passover and Yom Kippur, and the
Muslim celebrations of Eid Ul-Fitr and Eid Ul-Adha.
    The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News
parent Bloomberg LP.

--Editors: Young, Goldschlag

Story illustration: For a map of New York City showing
concentrations of Asian Indian population, see
http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/pdf/census/nyc20002.pdf . For the
city's alternate-side-of-the-street parking calendar, see
http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/pdf/asp2005.pdf. For more New York
City region news, see {TNYC <GO>}.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Henry Goldman at City Hall at (1) (212) 964-9157 or
hgoldman@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Glenn Holdcraft at (1) (212) 617-8968 or
gholdcraft@bloomberg.net.

o o o o o

From: Sreenath Sreenivasan <ss221@columbia.edu>
To: SAJA E-mail Discussion Lists
Date: Sep 18, 2005 11:03 PM
Subject: REQUEST: NYC City Council Hearing on Diwali (and how you can help)

From D.A.M.N. - Dissecting American Media Now
SAJA E-mail Lists: http://www.saja.org

I first came to this country when I was nine - and have never had reason
to be excited about a piece of legislation... Now, I do. If, like me, you
have been frustrated that Hindu festivals never get a seat at the table
with those of other religions, here's your chance to do something, with
very little effort time-wise or otherwise.

The NYC City Council is holding a hearing this Tuesday about a piece of
legislation that would make Diwali part of the city's official "parking
calendar." If successful, the bill would mean that Diwali would join the long
roster of holidays (Christian, Jewish, Muslim) on which New Yorkers would be
allowed to suspend the so-called "alernate side of the street" parking rules
(if you haven't lived in NYC, it's tough to explain, but basically, if you park
on the street, on alternate days, the car has to be moved in order to permit
cleaning trucks to clean the side; on certain holidays you don't - and
therefore can leave it parked in place for another day).

This is a big deal both in practical terms (many non-Hindus will hear
about Diwali and appreciate not having to move their cars one extra day)
and in a symbolic way. Having Diwali officially recognized means it now
gets a seat at the table. Perhaps that will lead to other recognition in
ways big and small across the United States for the desi community.

You can make a difference, whether you are in NYC or elsewhere - whether
you are a journalist or not, whether you are a Hindu or not. See a
detailed note below from my friend UDAI TAMBAR who's a terrific resource
on many things for the South Asian community in the US (he's program
director, Indian American Center for Political Awareness (IACPA) Local
Leadership Development Program in New York City, and the assistant
director, Policy Research Institute for the Region at Princeton
University's Woodrow Wilson School of International and Public Affairs -
so save his contact info for the future; tell him SAJA sent you).

Please take a look there's info on how people around the world can get involved
to make this happen. And please pass it onto anyone who might be interested.
Also included below is a letter of support that Prof. Jack Hawley, a
leading Hinduism scholar, has sent in support of this legislation - you
can do the same.
- Hide quoted text -

Cheers, Sree
http://www.sree.net

From: Udai K Tambar <utambar@Princeton.EDU>

Sree,

I wanted to let you know of a New York City Council hearing on September
20th (Tuesday) related to an exciting bill being introduced. The NYC
Council Committee on Transportation is holding a hearing in relation to
the suspension of alternate side of the street parking rules on the
Hindu festival of Diwali. As far as I know this is the first time a
municipality in the country is introducing legislation to recognize
Diwali in this way.

Diwali is one of the most widely celebrated Hindu festivals, and is
celebrated by the Hindu diaspora and persons of South Asian descent
throughout the world. NYC already suspends alternate side of the street
parking for some Jewish, Christian, and Muslim holidays, and the Asian
Lunar New Year. Considering the large number of members of our
community that celebrate Diwali, this legislation being signed into law
is an issue of equity (According to the NYC Department of Planning,
there are over 600,000 foreign-born persons of South Asian descent in
the NYC metro area; this does not even include those of South Asian
descent born in America). Having Diwali recognized by NYC helps make
our community more visible in the cultural and political landscape of
the city. Also, NYC has always been at the vanguard of what the rest of
the country will do. If NYC takes this step, other cities and
municipalities throughout the country will have the precedent to do the
same.

The first step in the process is the proposed legislation to get
approved at the hearing on September 20th. Then, the Mayor will have to
sign it into law. It is critical that the Council Members and, in turn,
the Mayor appreciate the interest in and support of this legislation.
The more support shown for the legislation at this stage of the process,
the more likely it is that the Mayor will not veto it. Remember, it is
an election for the mayor and he will want to avoid any negative press
associated with a popular initiative.

Here are more details on the hearing:
Tuesday (September 20) at 10 am in the Council Chambers (2nd floor of
City Hall) the NYC Council Committee on Transportation is holding a
hearing in relation to the suspension of alternate side of the street
parking rules on the Hindu festival of Diwali. Council Member Gale
Brewer sponsored the legislation and Council Member John Liu is the
chair of the Committee on Transportation. A copy of the proposed
legialtion can be found at:
http://webdocs.nyccouncil.info/textfiles/Int%200420-2004.htm?CFID=5803.
To get to city hall, take the A,C,E to Chambers Street or the 4,5,6,R,W
to City Hall.

What people can do to help:

1) Show support: If people are interested in testifying, ask them to
contact me. Testimonies should highlight the importance of Diwali in
the Hindu and/or South Asian community and its impacts on the NYC
community. Overall, testimonies should help convey the community's
support of this legislation and be no more than 3-4 minutes (2-3 double
spaced pages). 20 copies of the testimony need to be brought to the
hearing.

Members of the community can show up without needing to testify. It's a public
hearing, so a strong audience presence will be very important. Just their
prescence will send a good signal about community interest.

2) If people can't testify, they can send letters of support to City
Council Member John Liu, Chair, Committee on Transportation by fax to
212.788.8964 or email to infhom@council.nyc.gov.

3) Provide media attention: It would be great to have journalists cover
the hearing. A large interest by the media will make the legislators
aware of the community's interest in the legislation.

Journalists outside of NYC or unable to attend the hearing, can call
Council Member Gale Brewer (212.788.6975) and Council Member John Liu
(212.788.7022). Brewer should get the credit for introducing the
legislation but it helps to let the Committee Chair know of the media
interest as well. Media attention from outside the city will help the
Council Members appreciate the precedent this legislation will set. As
you can imagine, all elected officials want to be pioneers.

Thanks again for the help. Feel free to contact me with any questions.

Best,
Udai
917.601.0153

o o o o o

LETTER SENT BY Prof. John Stratton Hawley of Columbia University
to NY City Council
- Hide quoted text -

September 17, 2005

John Liu, Chair
Committee on Transportation
New York City Council

Fax 212.788.8964

Dear Mr. Liu:

As the senior faculty person at Barnard College and Columbia University for the
study of Hinduism and as a former director of Columbia's Southern Asian
Institute, I am writing to urge the importance of enacting a suspension of
alternate-side parking regulations on the Hindu festival, Divali (also spelled
Diwali).

Hinduism is without question one of the world's major religious traditions --
one of its oldest and also one of the most influential for other religious
traditions that have been spawned and have evolved in relation to it. In New
York, we are very fortunate to have the nation's most substantial community of
Indian-Americans and Caribbean-Americans who are Hindus. It is especially
appropriate, therefore, that New York enact civic legislation that would
recognize this religiously, culturally, and even economically important force
among us.

Divali is often said to be the most widely celebrated Hindu festival. In the
Hindu diaspora in particular, it serves as a commonly accepted time for Hindus
of various stripes and national origins to join together to celebrate the
coherence of the Hindu tradition as a whole. Divali is therefore the right day
to set side for a suspension of alternate-side parking regulations in New York.
This will bring the city in line with arrangements that other institutions have
made to recognize and celebrate the cultural and religious plurality of our
citizenry.

Thank you for considering closely this move to include Divali alongside other
major religious celebrations on New York City's public calendar.

Sincerely yours,

John Stratton Hawley
Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Religion
Barnard College, Columbia University

 

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