By Shirley N Lew
AsAmNews New York Correspondent
The Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side held a rally on Wednesday to condemn a developer-led affordable housing plan that it says will continue the gentrification of New York Chinatown.
Across the street from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s residence, Gracie Mansion, supporters chanted “One term Mayor! One term Mayor!” They are disgusted at what they see as his disinterest to meet with community organizers to stop the displacement of numerous low and middle income families in Chinatown and the Lower East Side.
“If de Blasio continues to look down on us, discriminate against our communities, not adopt the Chinatown Working Group rezoning plan and not limit the height of the new buildings, it means that he is committed to displace us from our community. Therefore, we want to kick him out of Gracie Mansion first!” said Wah Lee of Chinese Staff and Workers’ Association.
There were approximately 100 people that attended and most were holding signs in Chinese and Spanish.
The Coalition is comprised of over 40 organizations and community leaders which has been fighting with de Blasio to recognize the Chinatown Working Group rezoning plan which they say would “protect against displacement by ensuring height limits in an area that’s seen a flood of luxury hotels and condominiums since being excluded from the 2008 East Village Rezoning Plan”.
That plan preserved the East Village’s character by restricting height limits and providing affordable housing along the areas with widest streets and near public transportation. The Coalition wants similar restrictions in Chinatown.
The Chinatown Working Group rezoning plan has been discussed for seven years. In their last town hall meeting, instead of attending, de Blasio sent a representative that asked the crowd to “compromise”.
David Tieu, a fired up representative of the Coalition shouted to the crowd, “Enough is enough. We are fed up with this Mayor. Just like Mayor Bloomberg, all these guys are robbing the poor to feed the rich. Since the East Village Rezoning plan was passed in 2008, the Lower East Side and Chinatown has been taken over by luxury condominiums, condos for the rich, hotels for tourists, bars and galleries for people with money, and for us? What do we get? Nothing! What we get is high rent, expensive food, no heat, no hot water, leaking bathrooms, eviction notices, harassment by landlords, our housing is sold to developers, our senior citizen centers shut down, school programs cut. Is that right?! We need the same height restrictions like the East Village so we are not pushed out. Why can we have it? Because we are Latino, Black or Chinese? Is it too much to ask for equality in 2015?” The Mayor sent a rep to tell us again that asking for equal protection is “too ambitious”, that we need to “compromise”. Compromise on what? Thousands of us have already been displaced, and our community is being destroyed. There is no compromise on equal treatment!”
New York’s 65th Assembly District Leader and civil rights lawyer Jennifer Rajkumar said to the crowd, “The community came together for seven years to create it (The Chinatown Working Group rezoning plan), to save our small businesses and to keep our community affordable so future generations of families can live there. So that’s why I am here standing with you. We want to work with the mayor and the city to pass the Chinatown Working Group rezoning plan.”
They say the Mayor’s citywide rezoning text amendment proposal is not just a threat to Chinatown and the Lower East Side, but to all communities of working families. Supporters from other boroughs and neighborhoods came out to speak against de Blasio as well. The Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side plans on rallying each week at Gracie Mansion.
For more information on the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and The Lower East Side, contact Sarah Ahn at 718-600-0793. Also visit: www.PeopleFirstNYC.org