Sunday, August 23, 2009

John Liu answers Daily News accusations

The following letter was sent to friends and supporters of Comptroller candidate John Liu in response to the recent Daily News article which, in effect, accuses Liu of lying about his past experience working as a young person in a Chinatown sweatshop.

As one Chinatown resident explains "Historically many U.S. immigrants toiled at sweatshops or in sweatshop like conditions in order to keep a roof overhead and food on the table -- unfortunately it was ingrained in many to keep quiet about the long hours, low pay, lack of overtime or risk getting their bosses into trouble or themselves fired. Sadly such choices continue to be faced by many immigrants today."

Dear Friend,

We all know that sweatshops exist – even in our modern ethical society
– but no one talks openly about it, especially not people who have
worked in factories. And many people, including journalists, simply
do not understand how these illegal industries operate.

Today's Daily news article (text in-full at end of message), "City
controller hopeful John Liu touts youth in sweatshop - only family
says it never happened", is a case-in-point.

What began as a profile suddenly turned into a misleading piece of
'gotcha' journalism. A reporter asked for an interview with my
parents to talk about my childhood, and we gave her unfettered access.
My mom was very reluctant and embarrassed to talk about her
experience working in the garment industry.

After the interview, the reporter asked me for a paystub to prove I
actually worked in the factory. We attempted to explain to the
journalist how sweatshops actually work. Unfortunately, we were
unable to dislodge her preconceived ideas about how illegal practices
in the garment industry work.

Not all sweatshops look like a scene from 'Norma Rae' or other
Hollywood movies, with people toiling in neat rows in a factory
setting. These factories do exist, but in addition, some sweatshops
use overseas labor involving children as young as 6 years old. Others
– including the one my mother worked in – combined factory hours with
home-based piece work to maximize the exploitation and squeeze the
most out of workers: even after leaving the factory, the work never

Equally important for sweatshop owners are the weapons of intimidation
and shame, which keep parents from admitting they have involved their
own children in unlawful work situations.

For my parents and so many Asian parents, having worked in a sweatshop
is a shameful past and people choose to bury those memories. It’s
time we brought them out in the open and let people tell their stories
without being subjected to cynical attacks.

35 years ago, I worked with my mom – inside a sweatshop and at home.
For me, it’s not a shameful past. I make no apology for the work
ethic I gained from toiling away many hours in a factory, and I remain
as committed as ever to exposing and ending the sweatshop system.

I am running for Comptroller based on my record of accomplishments and
my fiscal expertise and my vision for what the Office can do. I am
also running to expand opportunity for the millions of New Yorkers who
don't have a job as well as those who work in sweatshops in the
retail, restaurant, laundry and many, many other industries.


John C. Liu

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: "City controller hopeful John Liu touts youth in
sweatshop - only family says it never happened" - 8/23/09

In powerful new TV ads, emotional music plays over pictures of city
controller candidate John Liu as a little boy.

"He came here at 5, and by seven had to work in a sweatshop to make
ends meet," a narrator drones over images of women hunched over
machines in a crowded factory.

"Working in finance taught Liu how to account for every penny, but
working in that sweatshop as a kid taught him why we need to."

There's only one problem with the compelling story of his immigrant
childhood toiling beside his mother in a sweatshop — his parents and
two of his mother's friends say it never happened.

She worked at home.

"I never go to the factory," Liu's mother, Jamy Liu, 69, told the
Daily News of her 10 years in the garment industry.

"I just go there and pick up some material and bring home because I
had to take care of my kids," she said in an interview arranged by her

As a young boy, Liu helped his mother work on the knitting machine —
first in the living room of the family's Flushing, Queens, apartment,
then in the garage of their larger Bayside home, his parents said.

He was paid 25 cents for every ball he spun on a yarn-spinning tool,
but Liu's father, Joseph Liu, 73, described that money as allowance.

"Lily Fashion pay her, and she give the kids allowance to encourage
them," Joseph Liu said of the company that employed his wife while he
worked his way up in a bank and studied at night for his MBA.

Liu, 42, rarely, if ever, mentioned his sweatshop childhood during his
three campaigns for City Council or after he became the Council's
first Asian-American.

The News found no references to his sweatshop work in articles about
him before this year.

But Liu's sweatshop past has been the centerpiece of his campaign this
year and is cited extensively by labor leaders and others who've
endorsed him.

Asked to list his employment history on a recent questionnaire from
The News, he said he worked as a "knitting-thread manager" in Queens
garment factories from 1974 to 1978.

"I learned first-hand why they call that place a sweatshop," Liu said
a recent campaign event.

When The News confronted Liu about the discrepancy, he insisted his
memory is accurate and made an impromptu offer to take a reporter to
Queens in search of proof.

Forty minutes later, Liu's mother met his car on Main St. in Flushing,
where she told her son she had mostly worked at home.

"Sometime work there couple hours," she said of the factories where
she said she did "freelance" work.

"Every style, I had to learn there [in the factory]. Then I go home
because I had to take care of kids."

Liu then took his mom and a reporter to meet Kwei Ching Liao, who
owned a garment factory in Flushing that was the first to employ Jamy
Liu when she arrived with her young family from Taiwan.

But Liao told the same story. She worked "in home," Liao said. "Take
home the piece work."

John Liu became visibly frustrated, frowning and resting his forehead
in his hand.

"I'm just trying to prove that 10 years of my life were not my
imagination," he said.

Liu called the next day to say he'd spoken with his parents about "how
our memories could be so different" and said he thought they may have
been ashamed of the sweatshop and hadn't told the whole truth.

"They were worried about how it would look for me that I worked in a
sweatshop ... They were not being completely forthright," he said.

A day later, his campaign gave a reporter two additional names of
women who worked with his mother, but one reached by The News told the
same story.

"She cannot stay [in the factory] because she has the children," said
Nancy Kuo, 68, of Flushing, who worked with Jamy Liu at a factory in
Long Island City.

Jamy Liu would bring her three sons with her to the factory when she
came to collect her piece work, Kuo said, and John Liu, the oldest,
would ask to use the machines.

"Just for fun," she said. "He thought was toy. He want to try."

Only Jui Zheng, 74, of Flushing, said she saw Jamy Liu work on a
regular basis in the Long Island City factory, though she was sketchy
on when or how long.

Through a Chinese interpreter, she recalled Jamy Liu worked at home
for a while, then in the factory, where she would sometimes bring her
boys. She said the owner occasionally gave children work to do and
believes she saw John Liu help out.

Liu maintains his memories are accurate, but his version of events has shifted.

He now says his mom worked at home during the schoolyear so she'd be
available to her kids after school — but brought them to the sweatshop
with her in the summer.

It was a different story than he told The News in an interview last
month. "Part of the year when school was open, we were latch-key
kids," Liu said last month. "We went home by ourselves and stayed
until 9 o'clock when my mom came home."

Still, he says, he remembers everything precisely.

"I was proud of the fact at the time that while other kids were
playing around, wasting time," he said, "I actually had a job, making
money, getting paid."

Monday, August 17, 2009

"Recycling" should not extend to the NYC Mayor's office - Sometimes NEW is better

RECYCLING fanatic Dallas Boesendahl has a bone to pick with Mayor Bloomberg. At the recent East Hampton Antiques Show benefiting the East Hampton Historical Society, the antiques dealer was offering customers like Beth Rudin DeWoody and Jane Holzer a choice of used shopping bags from Jimmy Choo, Gucci, Saks and Cartier to carry home their precious finds. The conversation went from recycling to junk mail and Bloomberg's campaign pamphlets that are cramming everyone's mailboxes. Boesendahl says he tried and failed to get his name removed from Hizzoner's mailing list. One Hamptons socialite suggested they hire a garbage truck and gather several tons of the discarded Bloomberg mailings and dump them in front of his townhouse. "Then he might get the point," she said. A Bloomberg campaign spokeswoman said, "It's all recyclable mail, so once they're done hanging the mayor's report card on schools on their fridge, they can toss it in the recycling bin." - FROM NY POST

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Downtown Express Hosts a District 1 Council Candidates Debate

CCRC Says "Don't Hate, Debate!"

Express sponsors candidates’ forum

Downtown Express and its sister publication, The Villager, are sponsoring a forum for the primary candidates in the District 1 City Council race on Mon., Aug. 17, at Pace University. All five Democratic candidates in the race for the Lower Manhattan seat have confirmed their attendance. They are City Councilmember Alan Gerson, Pete Gleason, Margaret Chin, Arthur Gregory and PJ Kim.

The forum will be held at 1 Pace Plaza, entrance at Spruce St. near Gold St., in the multipurpose room. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and seating is limited. The forum, which is free and open to the public, will start promptly at 7 p.m. and end about 8:30 p.m.

The co-moderators, Josh Rogers, associate editor of Downtown Express, and Lincoln Anderson, the associate editor of The Villager, will ask the questions, which will include some written by attendees. Readers can also email question suggestions appropriate for all five candidates to (put “Forum Question” in the headline) or mail them to Downtown Express at 145 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10013.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Chatham Square - a new glass building,

The corner where the HSBC Bank once stood will now be home to yet another boring glass office building.
Architect David Hu has designed a characterless glass wedge. This matches the characterless glass sliver on Mulberry St. across from Columbus Park, which we have learned is a hotel.

The trend that was predicted by opponents of the Lower East Side rezoning plan is coming true faster than anyone could have predicted. Contrary to what rezoning advocates had said, the building South of Delancey St. not only continues through the recession, it seems to be accelerated. Chinatown, considered ripe for the picking is seeing its share of ugly towers sprouting like mushrooms.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Business Improvement Districts are a license for the City Of New York to IGNORE SMALL BUSINESS

What is troubling is that none of the solutions offered by the City's representative involved MORE enforcement from the NYPD or from the Office Of Consumer Affairs.

The City will continue to "visit" and begin dialogues, but now that the B.I.D. has been formed, it will not actually enlist its own agencies or call for more NYPD enforcement now that services in the B.I.D. have been privatized. As businesses frustration grows, the City will continue to "visit" and that's about it.

THIS IS THE DANGER OF B.I.D.'s. Neighborhoods and businesses can achieve more without them.

City to 47th Street BID: We Feel Your Pain

July 24th, 2009

The BID met with city officials regarding street hawkers.

Officials from Mayor Bloomberg’s administration visited with the 47th Street Business Improvement District (BID) to discuss solutions to what the BID calls the growing problem of street hawkers.

While the city is sympathetic to the plight of business owners, and acknowledge there is a problem, they say there are no clear-cut answers. Pauline Yu, an outreach specialist for the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit, is serving as the liaison among the BID and various city agencies.

During an interview with DDN, Yu said the hawker problem is a “first amendment issue” and that “our hands are tied.” However, she said the city agencies are continuing their dialogue with BID representatives to formulate “innovative, out of the box” solutions to the hawker problem.

Michael Grumet, executive director of the BID, said the important development is that city officials are engaging in discussions with the BID. “We didn’t have that in the past,” Grumet said. “That’s encouraging.”

Yu said she could relate to the issue. “I was approached by two [hawkers] on my visit. It was not a pleasant experience. It can be very frightening for someone. I am from New York and I can deal with these things, but a tourist coming here? It is frightening for people to walk down the block and be accosted. It’s a tough situation and I feel their [business owners’] frustration.”

Among the potential solutions being considered:

* Requiring hawkers to get permits or licenses. This idea has gained momentum among BID members. Several U.S. cities require hawkers to obtain a business license before they can engage in any business activity. An Internet search found that most require an application that includes a fee (it can range from a one-time payment of $75 to $50 a month). Applicants must also submit to a criminal background check. BID members are planning to send this information to city officials.
* Hire more security for the block. Some local merchants suggest that hiring more security would be fruitless unless there were laws to enforce.
* Turn 47th Street into a street plaza and restrict vehicular traffic. Yu broached this idea, but many merchants say with the number of deliveries here each business day, a street plaza would not make sense; besides, it would not restrict hawkers.
* Create a marketing campaign, i.e., sell the block as a place to visit and do business. The drawback, Yu said, “is you have to clean up the block first before you can market it.”

The city is listening. “We’re very sensitive to the BID and we’ll continue to talk to other agencies [about helping them],” Yu said. “We want to help the neighborhood as much as we can.”
The next step will be for the city to act. “We need the city to guide us,” said Keith Lipstein, managing director, ABS Partners Real Estate. “We employ a lot of people on this block, we’re a tourist attraction. We have to get their help.”

Ken Kahn, a BID member who is managing director of Kenart Realties, agreed: “Everyone is looking for money, but we’re not. We’re looking for help.”