Assemblymember Simotas and Up-Stand Co-Sponsor Latch-On Event (Vid)

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Assemblymember Nily Rozic, Christine Serdjenian Yearwood, founder of Up-Stand, Inc., NYC Council Member Costa Constantinides, and Council Member Donovan Richards at the event with mothers and children in support of Assembylmember Aravella Simotas' Family Accommodations in Entertainment Act. (Photo by TNH/Eleni Sakellis)

ASTORIA– Assemblymember Aravella Simotas and Christine Serdjenian Yearwood are co-sponsored a Latch-On event on August 1 at Columbus Triangle at the intersection of 31st Street and Astoria Blvd. Southin Astoria to kick off and celebrate World Breastfeeding Week (August 1 to 8) and to urge support for Simotas’ bill — the Family Accommodation in Entertainment Act (A9775). A good crowd gathered even with the intermittent showers.

Christine Serdjenian Yearwood, founder of Up-Stand, Inc., a pregnancy rights organization,and breastfeeding mothers with their babies were joined by Queens elected officialsCongresswoman Carolyn B.Maloney, Councilmember Costa Constantinides, AssemblymemberNilyRozic, and Councilmember Donovan Richards.Though co-sponsoring the event, Assemblymember Simotas was unable to attend as she is in Greece visiting family members.

Serdjenian Yearwood welcomed everyone to the event, holding her son Antonio, and noting the well-known health benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and child and that it is now legal to breastfeed in public in all 50 stateswhich drew applause from the crowd who also expressed support for the Simotas bill. She introduced Rep. Carolyn Maloney(NY-12), co-chair and co-founder of the Congressional Hellenic Caucus, and a longtime supporter of women’s rights and breastfeeding.

She was the first member of the city council to give birth while in office and throughout her career has helped passed legislation supporting breastfeedingand working mothers’rights among other important laws in support of families and child care. A mother of two daughters, Maloney noted that women in the past were arrested for breastfeeding in public and if they needed to express milk at work, they could only do so in the bathroom, not a sanitary place. She then read a statement from Assemblymember Simotas, thanking everyone for their support and urging everyone to contact their elected officials and support the bill that promotes the health of children and mothers.

Maloney pointed out that through the Affordable Care Act, breastfeeding at work is a workplace protectionand adequate break time must be provided for expressing milk, and a sanitary room must also be provided. She said, “No breastfeeding mom should feel discriminated against or stopped from doing so. Breastfeeding is a healthy option for mom and baby, and we need to do all we can to make sure that moms who choose to and can breastfeed don’t need to jump through hoops to do so.”

Councilmember Costa Constantinides who brought his son Niko to the event, pointed out that the fight must continue to support breastfeeding rather than the baby milk lobby which puts profits ahead of children’s health. Constantinides told The National Herald that the Simotas legislation “will ensure that public places in our community are family friendly, and women won’t feel frustrated by the lack of accommodation for breastfeeding,” adding that he strongly supports the bill.

New York City Council Member Costa Constantinides, at the podium, voicing his support for the Simotas bill. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

Councilmember Richards also voiced his support for the bill, noting the well-documented evidence of the benefits of breastfeeding including brain development. He said the fight must continue to beat the baby milk lobby and break down the stigma attached to breastfeeding in public. Richardsalso pointed out that “Women’s rights are human rights.”

Assemblymember Rozicsaid it is a quality of life issue for families in Astoria and in Assembly District 25 in Flushing which she represents. Accommodation for breastfeeding for working moms is about “work-life balance”and she “will continue fighting to make sure your voice is heard,” she said to all those present.

The new legislation, introduced on February 7, requires places of entertainment (as defined in the New York State Arts and Cultural Affairs Law, Section 23.03) such as stadiums, arenas, convention centers, theaters, gardens or other places of amusement to provide accommodations, if readily achievable, including high chairs and booster seats (where appropriate), changing tables in all public restrooms, stroller parking, and a private, hygienic location for nursing or pumping breast milk. In addition, public restrooms would have at least one stall with a child protection seat mounted on the wall so that parents or babysitters can use the bathroom without having to juggle a baby.

“This is a practical way to ease the burden on parents and babysitters who want to enjoy entertainment outside their homes,” Assemblymember Simotas said when the bill was first introduced.

“If we’re going to claim the moniker of ‘family-friendly’ let’s really help moms and dads who have to grapple with diapers, strollers, feeding, and keeping babies safe just to attend an event,” Simotas said.