Chick-fil-A flap embroils N.Y.U.; Vote on fall menu

The fate of Chick-fil-A at N.Y.U. will have to wait for a decision by the University Senate when classes resume in the fall. Photo by Duncan Osborne

BY GARY SHAPIRO  |   A local food fight is causing a lot of squawking in the Village.

The ruckus began when Dan Cathy, president of the Atlanta-based restaurant chain Chick-fil-A, criticized gay marriage. N.Y.U.’s Weinstein Residence Hall, which is currently closed for summer break, serves food from this company.

The Village location is the only Chick-fil-A franchise in the city.

Hillary Dworkoski, a former student at N.Y.U.’s Gallatin School of Indi-vidualized Study, caused a lot of clucking by circulating a petition at www.change.org, urging N.Y.U. to stop doing business with Chick-fil-A.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is openly gay, stirred the pot last month when she used Council letterhead in a message to university President John Sexton, asking him to cancel ties with Chick-fil-A. More feathers flew because she opened by mentioning her official capacity “as the Speaker of the NYC Council, and on behalf of my family.”

If Quinn had her way, students might have to gobble up other offerings at the Weinstein dining room on University Place, like Quiznos subs, fruit-filled pancakes and “Grab n’ Go” items like sushi.

N.Y.U.’s decision on the subject is pending. In a statement, a spokesperson said, “The recent remarks attributed to Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy about gay marriage are out of step with N.Y.U.’s views on this matter, and with our practices.” As to the school’s next move, the statement said, “The University Administration will ask the University Senate to take up the issue of Chick-fil-A’s status on campus again when it reconvenes this fall to make a recommendation on how to proceed.”

In a written statement, Steve Robinson, Chick-fil-A executive vice president of marketing, said, “We value everyone and strive to treat all people with a caring spirit.” An online press release for the company says, “Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.”

Mayor Bloomberg doesn’t feel it’s government’s duty to flush Chick-fil-A out of the city. On WOR Radio’s “The John Gambling Show with Mayor Mike,” Bloomberg said it was inappropriate for “government to look at somebody’s political views and decide whether they can live in the city or operate a business in the city or work for someone in the city.”

Similarly, Gregory Angelo, chairperson of Log Cabin Republicans of New York State, representing gays and lesbians within the Republican Party, cried “fowl” at the effort to ban the chicken chain.

“I do not want elected officials making the choice of how or where to spend my money,” Angelo said.

Tina Montenegro, an N.Y.U. doctoral student in French literature, said the owner of Chick-fil-A stating his opinion “is free expression.”

Marion Nestle, a professor in the nutrition department at N.Y.U., said, “It seems to me that there are two issues here. Should N.Y.U. permit franchises on campus from fast-food companies with distasteful views about sexual preference? And should N.Y.U. permit fast-food and beverage companies to be on campus at all?”

Nestle said such fast-food companies market themselves to poor families and children both here and in developing nations.

“The Chick-fil-A issue is a good reason for N.Y.U. to reconsider all of its arrangements with fast-food and soda companies,” Nestle stated.

On another gustatory note, radio host Gambling said the chain’s chicken sandwiches were tasty. The mayor chimed in, “Never had one, I didn’t know about them until I read about them in the paper.”

The L.G.B.T. Center on W. 13th St. declined comment on the politically incorrect poultry place.

However, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, the local gay and lesbian synagogue, said, “As individual consumers, we should express our values through how we spend our dollars.”