City Councilmen Peter Koo (R-Flushing) and Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) want to “quell a culture clash between homegrown residents and new immigrants,” reports the New York Daily News, by making shopkeepers change their awnings if the majority of the writing isn’t in English. The councilmen say that the law is a safety issue, making it easier for police and fire officials to respond to calls. They — and some shop owners — also argue that it’s better for businesses, which will be able to attract more shoppers with English.
However, the president of the Flushing Union Merchants Association is upset with the proposal, telling the Daily News that it is “ridiculous” and costly. Per the new proposal, the store owners would get four years to make sure at least 60 percent of the words on their signs were in English.
There is a law already on the books that mandates that stores have what the Daily News calls “key information” in English. The same two councilmen are also working on another bill that will block usage of any of that law’s loopholes.
Language conflicts are by no means new to Queens shoppers. In February, a Democratic assemblywoman wanted to create a guide that features shopping terms in Chinese, Hindi, and Korean. Like Rosetta Stone, only on paper.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 31, 2011