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Point of View: Flushing residents anticipate Lunar New Year

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Two years ago, an influential newspaper in Spain rated the Big Apple the No. 1 city in the world. It makes me proud of being a resident of this great city.

Yes, New York City offers a wider spectrum of attractions than any other place. Each year, Broadway shows fascinate thousands of tourists; Wall Street attracts investors from every corner of the globe; and Fifth Avenue gives visitors a taste of luxury.

To many foreigners, a visit to Manhattan is the fulfillment of a lifetime dream; it takes only 20 minutes to get from Queens to Manhattan, yet many of us are hesitant to take advantage of the proximity.

Never mind. Local folks shying away from Manhattan can find cultural activities and entertainment right here.

One such cultural event that is approaching as Asians in Queens and other communities get ready to celebrate it is the Lunar New Year, which falls on Saturday. Oriental supermarkets in Flushing were bracing for a flood of Asians from the tri-state region shopping for the year’s biggest family feast.

To highlight the beginning of the Year of the Ram, Asians in the borough are planning a dragon parade that will zigzag through Flushing streets. Of course, there are more festive activities in Chinatown in lower Manhattan.

In China, the celebration of the Lunar New Year is synonymous with the longest holiday of the year, usually seven to 15 days. Beijing wants its holiday-minded people to spend as a way to stimulate its economy. Koreans, Vietnamese and others in Southeast Asia also celebrate this holiday for a few days.

Here’s a reminder: The Lunar New Year is an official holiday in New York City, which means vehicle owners are spared from switching parking sides for a day. Mayor Michael Bloomberg rejected the holiday proposal, but the City Council overrode his veto.

More good news is that 10 days ago the mayor lifted the eight-year ban on firecrackers, which are a main feature of the celebration. Before they can set off firecrackers at designated areas, however, organizations have to get approval from the city. In Flushing, fun-seekers can set off firecrackers in front of Hong Kong supermarket on Main Street.

Besides the February new year celebrations are those which occur year-round at Flushing Town Hall and Flushing Library. Flushing Town Hall on Northern Boulevard presents hit shows on a small scale from time to time. For movie buffs, there are two state-of-the art multiplex cinemas just around the corner. But what I enjoy most is the cultural activity in Flushing Library’s auditorium.

On the weekend, there is always something going on in the auditorium, mostly chamber music, opera or a lecture. This free entertainment draws people of all ethnicities.

The beauty of the auditorium is that it’s also a cozy concert hall without echoes from its walls. It’s often filled to capacity, and I hope this type of activity will continue.

The auditorium can be converted into a big classroom, and the Queens Borough Public Library System offers English classes for non-English-speaking residents.

The Flushing branch will provide more classes than its counterparts in Long Island City, Jamaica and Jackson Heights.

Class levels include beginner, intermediate and advanced. New immigrants should take advantage of the opportunity to learn English if they intend to savor the mainstream of life in their adopted country; however, more often than not, new arrivals choose to hobnob with their peers who speak the mother tongue.

I wish the Flushing Library had more space to accommodate the growing number of its users. I never saw so many people in a public library. It seems students and residents often compete for a seat or a computer.

The library’s small video section sometimes teems with drama connoisseurs looking for videotapes from their homeland or Oscar-winning movies with subtitles of their native language. The library should update that section once in a while. Recently I overheard a woman complaining about the inadequate supply of quality productions. She probably meant materials from her native country.

I also wish the library could extend its weekend office hours. Closing at 5 p.m. disappoints some folks who work during the weekdays. And, the city is going to implement across-the-board budget cuts. With that in mind, it would be a difficult task for the library to make any schedule changes.

However you plan to enjoy the many cultural activities in Flushing, remember to say “Gong Xi Fa Cai,” pronounced “gone she fah chie,” to those you run into this Lunar New Year. Those four words mean, “Wishing you a happy new year and making a lot of money.’’

Updated 10:26 am, October 12, 2011
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