The NYC Diwali
Parking Holiday Saga
By Sree Sreenivasan
30-SECOND STORY: In Nov. 2005, New York City Council passed a
bill adding Diwali to its long list of major holidays on which
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.
Update: Oct. 26, 2007 From Udai Tambar
udai_tambar [at] yahoo.com
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
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
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
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
release from Councilwoman Gale Brewer's office (she introduced the
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
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 email@example.com or
o o o o o
From: Sree Sreenivasan
<firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com
Date: Sep 27, 2005 3:54 PM
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
An update on the Diwali Parking issue in NYC. You don't have to live in
help desi America take a big step forward. Many thanks to all those who
letters and otherwise helped make last week possible.
Please see below for a note from Udai Tambar about the latest on the
parking initiative. It's been approved unanimously by the City Council's
transportation committee, but there's a good chance Mayor Bloomberg
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
- you don't need to be a journalist to attend. Any member of the
welcome to attend. If you are free, please go - or send children,
friends, etc - the raw numbers make a difference. If you are a
please consider covering this. Udai also says that any of you who have
"connections" to the Mayor or his administration or his campaign should
word about this. There are big desi donors and supporters who can
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 -
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
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
every small group wants to accommodate. But we are not talking about a
group here. There are hundreds of thousands of Hindus from various
the NYC area (India, Guyana, Trindad & Tobago, Nepal, Malaysia,
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
third-generation New Yorkers; and at least one Indian Hindu born in
me!) When you look at that list of religious/ethnic holidays, how can
possibly justify keeping ONE Hindu festival off it?
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
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
groups testified in support of the legislation, which showed legislators
the community's interest. This is a great first step.
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
will have 30 days to sign or veto the legislation. Only when
signs the legislation does it become law and alternate side of the
street parking is suspended on Diwali. If he vetoes it, the
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.
it is likely that the Mayor will veto it. Here are a few
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
Transportation Committee that there are already 39 days when they can't
the curbs. Adding to it would "greatly impact community
cleanliness," he said.
Sullivan also said the department has opposed similar proposals for
holidays in the past. - By Bryan Virasami (NY Newsday, September 21,
-Mayor Michael Bloomberg intends to oppose the bill, said his
Barowitz. ``We will testify against it because it means another day
streets don't get cleaned,'' Barowitz said. - By Henry Goldman
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
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
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
€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 firstname.lastname@example.org
(I got the number from a press
release and guessed the email address; your members may have more
Thanks for all of your help. Feel free to contact me with any
An edited version, only showing the religious/ethnic holiday, not such
as President's Day, Labor Day, Memorial 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,
Holy Thursday (Orthodox)
April 28, Thurs
Good Friday (Orthodox) April 29, Fri
Passover: Seventh/Eighth Day April 30-May 1,
Solemnity of Ascension May 5, Thurs
Shavuot: First/Second Day June 13-14 ,
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
Shemini Atzereth October 2,
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,
Asterisk (*) indicates Major Legal Holidays.
[A note from a New Yorker who's NOT a Hindu about the significance of
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
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
Therefore, the suspension of alternate sides parking is considered a
recognition of the feast/holiday just short of declaring a city public
(It is, in effect, a compromise worked out over decades to avoid
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
these include 11 official city holidays.
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
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
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
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.
John Laxmi, New Jersey
o o o o o
Sept. 21, 2005
Council committee defies city on Hindu holiday vote
BY BRYAN VIRASAMI
September 21, 2005
Despite opposition from the Bloomberg administration, a City Council
Tuesday voted unanimously to approve legislation adding Diwali to the
holidays that alternate-side-of-the-street parking rules would be
The full council will vote later this month on whether to suspend the
rules for street cleaning for the popular Hindu holiday.
Bernard Sullivan, chief of cleaning at the Sanitation Department, said
prepared remarks to the City Council Transportation Committee that
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
proposals for other holidays in the past.
Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing), chairman of the committee, didn't buy
"It's a question of fairness. There's a very substantial portion of New
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,
Tara Singh, a community activist and spokesman for the Bhuvaneshwar
Queens in Ozone Park, said the administration's opposition to the
âakin to a slap on the face.
"Most people go to church on that day and they need to park and parking
problem in the city," Singh said. "It's a question of equal protection
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,
Trinidad, observe the holiday, which goes back thousands of years.
The holiday, also called the Festival of Lights, originates from a
religious story symbolic of the triumph of good over evil, Singh said.
In observance, families get together and share food and light up
windows and other sections of their homes.
o o o o o
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 email@example.com
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
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
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
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
Mayor Michael Bloomberg intends to oppose the
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
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.
Diwali, which falls on the first new moon of the
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
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
``It's an important faith like all the faiths in
city,'' Mysorekar said. ``Why shouldn't we have our parking
suspended? We have thousands going to temple and visiting
In addition to U.S. legal holidays such as
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
parent Bloomberg LP.
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
From D.A.M.N. - Dissecting American Media
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,
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
roster of holidays (Christian, Jewish, Muslim) on which New Yorkers
allowed to suspend the so-called "alernate side of the street" parking
(if you haven't lived in NYC, it's tough to explain, but basically, if
on the street, on alternate days, the car has to be moved in order to
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
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 -
From: Udai K Tambar
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
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:
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
o o o o o
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
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
alternate-side parking regulations on the Hindu festival, Divali (also
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
traditions that have been spawned and have evolved in relation to it.
York, we are very fortunate to have the nation's most substantial
Indian-Americans and Caribbean-Americans who are Hindus. It is
appropriate, therefore, that New York enact civic legislation that would
recognize this religiously, culturally, and even economically important
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
of various stripes and national origins to join together to celebrate
coherence of the Hindu tradition as a whole. Divali is therefore the
to set side for a suspension of alternate-side parking regulations in
This will bring the city in line with arrangements that other
made to recognize and celebrate the cultural and religious plurality of
Thank you for considering closely this move to
include Divali alongside other
major religious celebrations on New York City's public calendar.
John Stratton Hawley
Ann Whitney Olin Professor of Religion
Barnard College, Columbia University