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Mayor Defends Ban on Holiday Decor at Staten Island Ferry Terminal

By Jill Colvin on December 16, 2011 12:12pm 

The Staten Island Ferry Terminal is bare this holiday season.
The Staten Island Ferry Terminal is bare this holiday season.
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Flick/Phil Wiffen

MANHATTAN — Amid a furor over banned holiday decorations at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, Mayor Michael Bloomberg insisted he doesn't hate Christmas and Hanukkah — just lawsuits.

Speaking on his weekly radio sit-down Friday, the mayor said that fear of litigation is what prompted the Department of Transportation’s decision to bar decorations from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal this year.

“The Department of Transportation got sued one time too many,” the mayor said of the absence of Christmas trees, menorahs and wreaths in the terminal space.

“You start getting into the whole issue of religion in public spaces,” he said, adding that there “are plenty of [other] places to celebrate Christmas,” including stores and homes.

“We didn’t diminish any one religion. We just said, ‘no,’” he said, adding that the terminal still has a place where commuters can donate toys to needy kids.

Bloomberg noted that the new policy mirrors the one in place at Grand Central Terminal, which also spends the holiday season unadorned.

“Nobody’s complained. There’s been a long time,” he said, panning the debate “as another one of these things that is a distraction.”

Last year, a nativity scene placed in the St. George terminal was removed by the DOT because it wasn’t authorized by the city, the Staten Island Advance reported at the time.

After last year’s spat, a DOT spokesman defended the official decorations that remained.

"We find that Staten Islanders can agree that these holiday symbols enliven our terminals and will continue to [do so] throughout the holidays,” the DOT spokesman was quoted saying at the time, describing the city’s displays as “consistent both with traditions at the ferry terminal and also with legal precedent."

Despite the reversal, the mayor insisted Friday that he's personally a fan of Christmas cheer.

“Nobody’s more in favor of holiday spirit and holiday decorations. I think it makes the city beautiful,” he said, pointing to Rockefeller Center as one example of a favorite space.

Thousands pack into Rockefeller Center on Nov. 30, 2011 for the annual Christmas Tree lighting.
Thousands pack into Rockefeller Center on Nov. 30, 2011 for the annual Christmas Tree lighting.
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DNAinfo/Paul Lomax

The mayor also weighed in on Christmas carols, insisting that he doesn’t cringe every time he hears “White Christmas,” despite last year’s disastrous Christmas blizzard, which trapped people in their homes for days and sent his poll numbers tumbling.

“I would like to see a White Christmas. I think snow’s great,” he said, adding, “Having said that, it would be nice to have…  just a light dusting.”

The Department of Transportation did not immediately return a call for comment.

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