By Theodore Bunker
Four New York state legislators have written open letters pushing to block Chick-fil-A from being included as an option at the state’s rest stops over the company’s history of donating to anti-LGBTQ groups.
The New York Thruway Authority that oversees the state highway system last year made a deal with the investor consortium Empire State Thruway Partners, which is owned by Applegreen, leasing the rest stops for 30 years. Applegreen is required to spend hundreds of millions on rebuilding, improvements and renovations, as well as $51 million in rent, and in return the company can keep most of the proceeds from the businesses at those rest stops.
The Thruway Authority announced last Wednesday that some of the restaurants included in the reopened rest stops will include Shake Shack, Popeyes, and Chick-fil-A.
“New York State has long stood on the right side of history and supported the LGBTQ+ community, but this decision flies in the face of our progressive values and will undermine the progress we have worked to achieve,” Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, a Democrat who represents Manhattan, wrote last Thursday in a letter addressed to Thruway Executive Director Matthew Driscoll and the chair of the group’s board of directors, Joanne Mahoney.
“The New York State Thruway Authority, a public-benefit corporation, must immediately drop all plans to allow Chick-fil-A to operate on New York State property,” she added.
“Discrimination and bigotry have no place in New York State,” Rosenthal said. “Donations made by Chick-fil-A and its Chief Executive Officer continue to support efforts that are causing harm to LGBTQ+ people nationwide.”
Rosenthal’s letter was followed by a second from three openly-gay state legislators, written by Assemblymembers Harry Bronson of Rochester along with Deborah Gluck and Daniel O’Donnell of Manhattan, that says the decision to block Chick-fil-A will show LGBTQ+ families that the state Thruway Authority “doesn’t share the same commitment to their civil rights as New York State.”
He added, “We are requesting that you re-examine the list of approved concessions for these restaurants considering Chick-fil-A’s action against the LGBTQ+ community.”
Chick-fil-A told the USA Today Network New York in a statement: “We want to be clear that Chick-fil-A does not have a political or social agenda, and we welcome everyone in our restaurants. We are proud to be represented by more than 180,000 diverse Team Members nationwide, and we strive to be a positive influence in our local communities.”