U-R update

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Four New York lawmakers are protesting the state Thruway Authority's choice of the restaurant chain Chick-fil-A to open eateries at rest areas, citing the fried chicken enterprise’s record of undermining civil rights of LGBTQ people.

“With so many other options, the last thing our service areas need is a restaurant serving up chicken sandwiches with a heaping side of bigotry," said Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, D-Manhattan.

Three of her colleagues — Assemblyman Harry Bronson, D-Rochester, Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, D-Manhattan, and Assemblyman Danny O'Donnell, D-Manhattan — have  taken to social media with a petition aimed at convincing Thruway director Matthew Driscoll and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to scuttle plans to include Chick-fil-A in rest area upgrades.

A letter by Bronson said the plan sent a message to LGBTQ individuals that the Thruway Authority "doesn't share the same commitment to their civil rights as New York state."

In a statement, Chick-fil-A denied it engages in discriminatory practices.

"We want to be clear that Chick-fil-A does not have a political or social agenda, and we welcome everyone in our restaurants," it said. “We are proud to be represented by more than 200,000 diverse team members nationwide, and we strive to be a positive influence in our local communities."

The company said it regularly donates to food banks and gives millions of meals through a charity program.

Critics of the company are also concerned that its hours — its restaurants close Sundays -- will inconvenience motorists.

Thruway spokesman Jonathan Dougherty said in a statement the rest area concessions are all required to "adhere to the inclusive and non-discriminatory standards that New York State embraces.”

No taxpayer funds or toll revenues are involved in plans to renovate 27 rest areas, he said.

The state Conservative Party, through its chairman, Gerard Kassar, said progressive Democrats are targeting Chick-fil-A because "its Christian founder isn't properly woke on LGBTQ issues."

Kassar said he plans to dine at Chick-fil-A, noting critics in the Legislature "don't need to eat there, but they have no right to prevent others from doing so."

Other restaurant companies lined up to have a presence at the rest areas include Panera Bread, Shake Shack, Dunkin', Panda Express, Burger King and Starbucks

Chick-fil-A reported April revenue last year of $4.3 billion.

Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach him at jmahoney@cnhinews.com

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