© 2023 WRVO Public Media
NPR News for Central New York
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

NY lawmakers criticize selection of Chick-fil-A for new Thruway dining options

NYS Thruway Authority
Rendering of planned NYS Thruway renovations.

Some New York lawmakers are taking the Thruway Authority to task because of one of the restaurants chosen as part of a makeover of the Thruway service areas.

Rochester-area state Assemblyman Harry Bronson and three other legislators are upset with news that Chick-fil-A will be one of the new restaurants that will be part of a massive renovation. Members of the Assembly’s LGBTQ caucus have written to Thruway Authority Executive Director Matthew Driscoll expressing concerns about past support by Chick-fil-A’s charitable foundation for organizations that have been hostile to LGBTQ rights.

Bronson said that in New York, the state has taken the correct policy decision to recognize the dignity and support the human rights of all individuals.

“When we’re making decisions regarding what vendor the state will contract with, or authorities the state will contract with, we should keep that public policy in mind,” Bronson said.

Bronson contends that the Thruway's plans to move ahead with Chick-fil-A as part of the renovation plans is inconsistent with that policy.

When Bronson posted his concerns on social media, there was a lot of support, but also some negative comments from people who feel travelers should have the option on whether they want to spend money at a private business. Bronson said that argument doesn’t work here.

“There is a huge difference between Chick-fil-A purchasing a piece of property or leasing a piece of property from another private individual. That's freedom of speech. However, when the state is engaged in a contract with an organization that has a history of discrimination, that's inappropriate,” Bronson said.

The Thruway Authority released this statement when asked to respond to Bronson’s concerns:

"The New York State Thruway Authority, its Board of Directors, and staff support an inclusive environment that treats the tens of millions of people that travel our system with dignity and respect. Our private partner in the Service Area redevelopment project, Empire State Thruway Partners, explored a selection of restaurants and finalized agreements with specific brands to operate at the redeveloped service areas to enhance and improve the travel experience for our customers.
There are no state taxpayer dollars or toll payer funds supporting the redevelopment of the Thruway’s 27 service areas. Every restaurant brand included by Empire State Thruway Partners has a contractual responsibility, and is legally required, under New York State law, including the New York State Human Rights Law and Executive Orders, to adhere to the inclusive and non-discriminatory standards that New York State embraces. "

Chick-fil-A, Inc., offered this response when asked about the concerns voiced by the state legislators:

“Chick-fil-A is excited about the partnership and the opportunity to further serve the residents of New York. 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 200,000 diverse team members nationwide, and we strive to be a positive influence in our local communities. We do this, in part, by contributing $25,000 to food banks in each community where we open a new restaurant, and donating more than 10 million meals through our Shared Table program.”

Bronson said that he would want to see Chick-fil-A totally disavow any earlier backing of organizations who were hostile to LGBTQ rights and he feels that even if there has not been a recent incident of the company supporting anti-LGBTQ organizations, Chick-fil-A should be held accountable for past actions.

Bronson also started a petition for people who want to support his opposition to having the company be part of the restaurant mix in the Thruway renovation project.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's Director of News and Public Affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.