NEW YORK (Feb. 22)
Mayor John V. Lindsay has announced his opposition to the scheduling of elections on Saturdays for members of the boards of the city’s 26 anti-poverty agencies, called community corporations. A bill is now before the New York State Legislature which would bar such elections by banning any elections in New York State on holy days of any religious group.
A spokesman for Lindsay said that the Mayor “considers it a clear and unacceptable infringement upon freedom of religion to hold public or quasi-public elections on the Sabbath.” The spokesman said that “through his senior aides,” the Mayor had “worked behind the scenes” for months “to avoid any unnecessary polarization of racial or religious groups over the proposed Saturday elections for offices of the city’s 26 community corporations.” Dates for the elections are set by the city’s Council Against Poverty, the city’s policy-making agency for poverty programs.
The spokesman said that “when it became clear” that the Mayor’s personal intervention was required, “he entered into direct conversations with officials of the Council Against Poverty. He has pledged to exert every effort, working with CAP officials, the City Council and other competent authorities, to make certain that no Sabbath elections are held. He will insist that no group suffer denial or impairment of its constitutional rights to free religious exercise.”
CITY WILL NOT DEFEND CAP
Dr. Marvin Schick, an administrative assistant to Lindsay and the Mayor’s advisor on Jewish affairs, said the city had prepared its own legislation to bar poverty board elections on Saturdays and that “if it becomes necessary,” Lindsay will have the legislation introduced in the City Council.
Dr. Schick also reported that the Lindsay administration does not intend to appear in court to defend CAP in a suit filed by Rabbi Sholom B. Gorodetsky, a Crown Heights delegate to CAP. Rabbi Gorodetsky obtained a State Supreme Court order last month requesting that the city reply to complaints against Saturday elections.
City Hall sources said that the action of the city administration in drafting legislation against a city agency and in planning not to defend the agency in a court suit was unprecedented. They said the latter action was to be considered an agreement that Saturday elections should not be held.