Lunar festival plans marked by friction

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The Lunar New Year Festival Committee organized a news conference Tuesday in response to a press event Nov. 22 in Flushing at which the formation of another committee to run the Jan. 27 parade was announced.

Adrian Joyce, the district manager of CB 7, and a consortium of Asian-American business and culture organizations had invited the media to the Nov. 22 meeting to introduce the new Lunar New Year Committee Festival 2001.

In the early 1990s, the marchers of the annual event, then known as the Chinese New Year Parade, were almost exclusively Chinese-Americans, even though all Asian-Americans celebrate the new year based on the lunar calendar.

Last year, in an effort to engender a greater degree of inclusiveness, the name of the parade was changed to the "Lunar New Year Festival." Korean-Americans and Vietnamese marched for the first time in that parade.

It was not clear why the new committee was formed by members of the Flushing Chamber of Commerce and Business Association, the Flushing Chinese Business Association and Korean American Association of Flushing, but the original group was dismayed.

The Lunar New Year Festival Committee accused Joyce of chosing by fiat the people and business groups he wanted to organize the parade and in so doing driving a wedge between the Korean and Chinese communities.

"Adrian Joyce is ignorant of the Asian culture and has no understanding of the Chinese- and Korean-American communities in Flushing," the committee said in a statement released to the press. "His action is divisive and is counter-productive to the harmony of the Asian communities. We demand his immediate resignation as chairman of Community Board 7."

The original committee is made up of about 100 members representing the Chinese-American and Korean-American communities, said Chun Soo Pyun. Ethel Chen, a candidate for the City Council and a member of the old parade committee, denied reports she had said Joyce was not suited to have a role in the festival because he is white.

"My goal is to have racial harmony," she said. "I never said anything about white or black. I have friends of all colors."

Meanwhile, the police said they will not issue a parade permit until the two committees resolve their differences.

Robert Cahill, a community affairs officer at the 109th Precinct in Flushing, said the newly formed committee had filed a request for a permit on Sept. 25, while the original group had filed its on Nov. 16.

If there is no resolution to the dispute, the parade might have to be canceled, Joyce said.

"I think it's sour grapes," said Joyce, who pointed out that the newly formed committee "extended an opportunity to the others to partner up together. Obviously, they're not interested in doing that for whatever reason."

Community Board 7 covers downtown Flushing as well as Whitestone, College Point, Bay Terrace and part of Auburndale. Its role in the parade is limited to ensuring, for example that sanitation trucks clean the streets beforehand, that potholes are filled and that buses normally traveling the route are redirected. Politics of any kind, Joyce said, do not play a role whatsoever.

"I'm not running for any office," Joyce said. "Are they the ones who are trying to springboard off of this and into political office? I have no idea, but I don't have an agenda."

For this year's parade, Joyce said, one representative from each of the Asian communities - Korean, Chinese and Vietnamese - will sit on the festival's organizing committee. Each community will decide what floats to use and who will be allowed to march. The newly formed group will oversee the entire festival.

But the original committee described the Nov. 22 press conference as "manipulative," and said the community board and Joyce in particular should not be involved at all in the festival.

"If he does not resign, we would like to urge him to stay away completely," said Che-Tsao Huang, one of the committee members. "The reason we wanted him in other years was to create full harmony."

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