Friday, November 16, 2012

Chinese business owners left "post-storm aid meeting" with disappointment.

Chinese business owners left "post-storm aid meeting" with disappointment.
The government-held post-storm aid meeting was a great disappointment ;  Chinese business owners cried they "need subsidies not loans"
10th Nov 2012
Our reporter Jacky Wong in New York reports Sing Tao NY
Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Assoc. Mott st. 
Many politicians and representatives at all levels from government gathered in the auditorium of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association yesterday (9th Nov), introduced various post-storm aid programs. The event attracted about 200 people from the business community to attend, however the aid is just low-interest loans rather than subsidies therefore many people felt disappointed. More importantly, the business owners pointed out the Chinatown economy has been barely breathing for 10 years, future is not guaranteed even they made through this time. Politicians and community agencies which taking government money need to produce a long-term rehabilitation plan.

Although the business owners have different backgrounds, but all have the same anger. The owner lady of Bayard Street Old Sichuan Mrs. Chu already became very impatient when listening to the loans introduction, at last she was the first who  shot. She pointed to the speakers on stage and yelled, "You talk a lot. But we don’t want loans. We need direct subsidies. Just like that after 911, each of our employees received 500 dollars. We all are realistic." Her argument won approvals from many business owners in the audience. In those, Chan Kin Yung said, "One needs to pay back the loans. Everybody wants direct subsidies. Another added, banking system in Chinatown reserves 60 hundred million cash for many years and the fund is sufficient. Government procedures for loan application are complicated. Who would take that difficulties rather than the easy approach?

Old Sichuan restaurant owner,  Mrs. Chu arguing with Councilmember Margaret Chin Sin Man

However, members of Congress Velazquez pushed the problem to the Republican Party, said that she had made a funding proposal in Congress but Republicans blocked it. She also said the new session will start next week, and she will once again raised the subsidy plan. Business owners are expected to be patient.

It is followed by the owner of Hong Kong Station Lai Chi Fung. He pointed out that losses made by the storm cannot be recovered, and Chinatown economy is stagnant as a pool of still water. What is the direction to go in future? Business owners still have to continue to pay rents, utilities and  labor. “What plans do the politicians, associations, community agencies and BID (Business Improvement District) have?” Although the City councilor Margaret Chin tried to take the question, she was unable to provide any actual answer because there are structural deadlocks in the Chinatown economy and it is not her expertise. Then business owners in the audience were getting more fierce. The owner of Mott Street Mottzar Kitchen couldn’t help shouted, "Otherwise no one will come to your meeting next time", meaning they all we have to close down.

Margaret Chin reminded the owners can come to her office if they need helps on the loan applications. To that, the owner of Man Yau Stationery Lee Kwok Wai expressed with his dissatisfaction, "If it is about to fill in the forms, we can do it on our own on Internet." Or it is even easier to have these information printed on the media. Because the losses including goods and profits are difficult to estimate, everyone wants to know the way to go on. He also hoped that, by this chance, the business owners are able to help each other and think about the future together.
The owner of Mottzar Kitchen Wong Suet Yu said, "if there is no plan, they have to close the business and then lots of people will become unemployed."

In fact, the storm matter indeed evoke people’s introspection about Chinatown economy. Issues such as transportation policies failed to attract tourists and housing policies crowding the middle class second-generation Chinese immigrants have cut these two upscale consumer groups. While other Chinese communities have been set up, the demands are diluted. However to solve these structural problems involves the interests of several large bodies in Chinatown. Just as what a community member Cheung Ying Ying said, “People holding vested interests don’t easily let go."

Many representatives from different community presented yesterday, including Director of the Business Improvement District Wellington Chen Jok Chow whose achievements only limited to street cleaning, Director of the Asian Americans for Equality Christopher Kui Yuen Yee who became a large landowner in Chinatown benefited from parity house policy, Chairman of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce Yue Kum Shan who claims himself representing the interests of the commercial sector but did nothing for years. The business owners’ views are worth to them to think about.

Sing Tao News - Translated article about Post Sandy Forum at Lin Sing Association

restaurant owner Wallace Lai ,HK Station

"After more than 10 years of restraint they now burst out; Chinatown business owners all rise up and howl after the storm"
08th Nov 2012
Our reporter Wong Dik in New York reports from Sing Tao NY

Improper policies made for Chinatown led to the barely breathing of economy for 10 years. Now it is stricken by the Northeast storm just right after the Storm Sandy. Difficult situations forced peoples’ anger exploded at an event in the Lin Sing Association yesterday (08th Nov), Chinatown business owners howled to the politicians and a representative from non-profit organization.

Yesterday, several business owners were invited to the Lin Sing Association. They expected that they will receive subsidies for their losses however the speakers just gave a bunch of empty words and hastily introduced the procedures of applying for loans and insurance claims on Internet.  The owner of Hong Kong Station (Wallace) Lai Chi Fung was the first to start revolt. He said angrily. "What’s the purpose of invitation? We can fill in the forms on Internet at home! What you these agencies can provide us? If it is wasting time, we’d rather go back and do more businesses!"

Lai Chi Fung couldn’t have sleep for days already. He came to blame with a pair eye bags which are large enough for shopping.  "Chinatown business owners are leading a very hard time after the storm and we have to continue to pay the rents, utilities and wages. The economy in Chinatown is so bad but community agencies are telling their own stories. How to revitalize the economy in Chinatown after all? Who can tell me! "

Lai Chi Fung’s comments are quite strong and the words go to the point. He won applause from everywhere at the scene. Consultant of the Lin Sing Association (Eddie) Chiu Man Sang who was one of the organizer originally had nothing to do with the matter however he had no choice but to meet the trick. He pointed out that it is a long-term problem in Chinatown and lots of other things are involved. But Lai Chi Fung was so aggressive. At last Eddie Chiu Man Sang was completely thrown off by the questions and exclaimed, "I have meetings with the government everyday. I will ask the mayor and governor to come." The business owners expected to receive subsidies at Lin Sing however they got the opposite of what they wanted therefore the atmosphere became more and more intense. Eddie Chiu Man Sang then simply and directly put that “The theme today is to send out blankets!" The boss of Shanghai Asian Manor pleaded with tactful words saying that it is a better choice for the community agencies to take some actual actions.

The Director of Human Resources Center Lee Hong Sing is the only representative from non-profitable organization, however finally he became the target of attacks for no reason. Facing attacks from the business owners, this gentleman was also struggling to cope. He claimed himself is a victim too because the Human Resources Center hotlines went dead. He also turned and threw the question to the ChinatownPartnership Local Development Corporation (CPLDC) saying that it is an organization established for economic development in Chinatown. When speaking about CPLDC, the owner of Man Yau Stationery Lee Kwok Wai whose shop in the Confucious Plaza was filled with pent-up anger. He complained, "We don’t’ want to listen to the truths and theories. Just tell us what we can do for you? And what you can do for us?"

The owner lady of Bayard Street Old Sichuan Mrs. Chu probably ate too much chili so she was especially fierce yesterday. She lashed out directly, "Loans are not what we want, we need direct subsidies, just like those after 911. This time it is even worse than 911. Where are Lau Sun Yat and Councilmember Margaret Chin? Why do politicians come for money for elections and they disappeared when we need helps?" It’s hard to tell for the past 40 years, but Margaret Chin indeed tried to fight for direct subsidies for owners of small businesses, even if there are no actual results. 14:00 today she will also work with other politicians for an aiding event held in the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent.

Finally, Mrs. Chu appeared to be helpless, and raised a suggestion with a no-harm-to try attitude, "Maybe one of you can give 500 dollars to each of our employees, 300 dollars will do anyway! Regretfully the speakers looked at each other and do not know what to do."
Menin’s telling her own story and people don’t bother to hear it

In fact, Julie Menin who is the former chairman of the First Community Board came to donate 500 blankets. She was running for the district head and originally intended to take this event to win people's hearts. However and to her surprise, she was lost to the bewilderment when the business owners threw their complaints in Chinese to her. 

Business owners sitting at the front were exasperated. The elders kept staring at the blankets behind the speakers because they actually came for the blankets.  Ng Aan Sim who is the owner of Amazing 66 Restaurant lost patience after sitting for a while. She kept showing the whites of eyes and finally threw a "Waste of time", left with the owner of the Red Egg David Wan each with a blanket under their arms. 

Some politicians, non-profit organizations and trade unions in Chinatown are still remained at the thoughts of civil rights movement in the 1960s, and not keeping up with the immigrants’ positive objectives of climbing the social ladder. Some of them were driven by the principle of “Weak forces demanding strong non-profitable policies”. As consequences, many wrong population, housing and economic policies were produced in the past 40 years which resulting in poverty and aging problems in Chinatown and therefore pulling out an endless stream of social and economic problems. These parties usually play the role of "A troop representing a just cause", but they sacrifice people’s benefits because the policies are only for their own institutional and political interests. Flushing and the 8th Avenue are also Chinese communities but their practices are widely divergent as they are helping Chinese immigrants to build up wealth. Even though the business owner spoke out of the topic and complained at a wrong event, but this outbreak tells that the business owners have long been aware of the facts thus became unbearable. It is worthy for the community agencies to ponder and introspect.

Ng Aan Sim  (rt) who is the owner of Amazing 66 Restaurant lost patience 
after sitting for a while.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Hurricane Sandy knocks out power but Community comes together to help at Hamilton Madison House

Hamilton Madison House and Two Bridges Neighborhood Council Board member Victor Papa (left)
Linnit Lawton, Chung Seto, Exec. Dir. HMH Mark Handelman

Hurricane Sandy dealt a devastating blow to New York City, especially in the Rockaways, Staten Island and Coney Island. An area very close to home, Knickerbocker Village on Monroe Street, a 600 unit housing project built in 1930 was also flooded plunging the entire complex (two city blocks square) into darkness on the night of the "superstorm". Shockingly, power and heat only returned to some residents last evening. Management from Knickerbocker, while touring the complex with Comptroller John Liu explained " water came rushing in and forced open a steel door (in one of the basements) , which pushed over filing cabinets, and the oil tank". It took many days to pump out tens of thousands of gallons of water from the basement rooms. The spilled oil created an environmental problem that also hampered repair efforts.

Repairing the boilers and power systems that keep Knickerbocker up and running smoothly proved to be a gargantuan task given the buildings antiquated infrastructure. Some of the parts needed are unique to the era and hard to locate, while a fire in an electrical room crippled repair efforts even further. 

In the meantime home bound senior citizens sat in the dark and cold waiting for help. They numbered at least  80+  people within the complex's labyrinth of hallways spread over two square blocks. Members of CAAAV, Coalition Against Anti-Asian Violence sprung into action almost immediately after the hurricane to run food donations up to home bound residents. 
Volunteers from Tzu Chi Buddhist organization launched an enormous campaign 
to aid as many residents effected by the storm as possible: 
Tzu Chi volunteers hand out goods with deep bow and respect. (Photo provided by Tzu Chi Foundation)
"On November 11, 400 Tzu Chi volunteers distributed cash cards, blankets and daily necessities to nearly 2,000 families in six districts in the greater New York area. The families are suffering from a shortage of power and water and freezing temperatures almost two weeks after the passage of Hurricane Sandy. The recipients were extremely moved by this generosity."

Immediately after the power returned to Alfred E. Smith projects at 50 Madison Street, Hamilton Madison House converted its gym into a commissary and warming center, as well as an information hub for FEMA, the Red Cross and donation distributions to the home bound in Knickerbocker.

On Sunday Nov. 11th about 35 volunteers from The Chinatown Community Young Lions spent the day at Hamilton Madison House translating, serving meals and going door to door with Red Cross nurses inside of Knickerbocker Village to assess health and nutritional needs of home bound seniors.

Photo: Jan Lee
Comptroller John Liu meeting with Knickerbocker Management
with Two Bridges Neighborhood Council and Hamilton Madison Board Member Victor Papa
Photo: Jan Lee

Some of the items that FEMA volunteers distributed from the central supply hub inside of Hamilton Madison House were: diapers, toilet paper, blankets, ready-to-eat meals, flashlights, pet food, bottled water, juice, canned foods, sanitary wipes and more. Lists, provided by Knickerbocker Village, were given to the volunteers from FEMA who methodically loaded up bags of items ready to deliver to individual home bound seniors within Knickerbocker. 
Comptroller John Liu serving meals to residents of Knickerbocker Village at Hamilton Madison House 50 Madison Street location. Donations of hot meals came from The Goya Corporation, The American Red Cross, Comptroller John Liu, Councilmember Margaret Chin, and Nydia Valazquez among many many others.
Hot meals arrive daily at Hamilton Madison with The Chinatown Community Young Lions and other volunteers at the ready to serve upwards of 800 meals a day.
Hamilton Madison House continues to coordinate hot meal donations even after most of the units in Knickerbocker Village have their power restored as of November 14th 2012, so residents can still get needed nutrition while they put their lives back together. Hamilton Madison House staff and administration complimented The Chinatown Community Young Lions on their efficiency, courtesy, and dedication in helping to serve those effected by the blackout.
Krissy Lew and Lucas Chang (son of Chinatown author Henry Chang)

For many of the C.C.Y.L. members it was their first time volunteering, no doubt this experience will have long lasting effects. CCYL Member Krissy Ann Lew said "Maybe I needed this experience just as much as they needed my help..... It was very eye opening and it made me realize the realities of life and appreciate things in my life much more than I use to and the feeling of helping people is amazing"

The Chinatown Community Young Lions are continuing their volunteer efforts at Hamilton Madison House daily, serving meals and assisting with Chinese translations for residents in the area wishing to get a hot meal while they recover from hurricane Sandy. "We are honored to be able to help our community in this way, some of our members live in Knickerbocker Village or have relatives or friends who are suffering right now, so our efforts are affecting people who are very close to us. We applaud all the groups who have come together to help" Director, CCYL Brandon Tom

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Sing Tao Newspaper covergage of Superstorm Sandy - Could Chinatown Pharmacies do a better job??

Sing Tao Newspaper published an article that highlighted several individuals in Chinatown who braved the blackout and decided to open up shop to serve their community, while many others, despite medical obligations to serve their community remained shuttered. 
. We've provided the English translation of this article below.


What is particularly disappointing is that only two of 25 pharmacies in Chinatown decided to 
open up during the blackout to provide much needed medications to Chinatown residents.
For one, why are there so many pharmacies in Chinatown? and secondly, are there only two who will serve usduring disasters like Sandy? It's a sad commentary indeed that with all the money they make from the 
local community, that they can't support us, when even tofu sellers and fruit stands made the effort
to open up. 
Here is the article translated:

Moving Stories Happening In The Restaurant And Pharmacies
Moral Shop Owners Keep Their Doors open Against The Difficulty

(picture) Amanda Hon says, they worry that some elderly people didn’t prepare enough medicines, thus decided to continue the store’s operation.

Our reporter Wong Dik in New York reports: The recent blackout in Chinatown prevents lots of businesses from their normal operations, however there are also a number of ship-owners rack their brains continue to open their doors to provide necessary day-to-day services for local Chinese compatriots. Their benevolent acts are not stopped by either wind or rain in the power outage and there are many moving stories, which won praises from people in the area.

Wingsun Restaurant in East Broadway is one of the good ones. The restaurant owner KK Woo yesterday (2nd of Nov.) frankly commented, originally he just did not want to waste food and wished to reduce losses. So when the storm Sandy struck on the first day, the restaurant was still operating by using electricity generators. But later he found that many people in the neighborhood fell in embarrass situations because of the power shortage. Therefore he decided to open his door for others’ cell phone charging. Some shops charge 3 dollars for each charging but he doesn’t ask for a single cent. KK Woo said, "Customers are all people living nearby, so we just take it as providing convenience to the others." And yesterday there was a Spanish lady came for phone charging. When her cell phone fully charged, the lady was much grateful even though she did not have much common topics with the owner.

A Chinese compatriot Wong Lap Yan said, he didn’t get any prepare before the blackout. On the day that the storm arrived, all the shops were closed except Wingsun. "Besides there are hot Cha Siu Mai Fun available, staying with others makes my mood improved a lot. And the prices of food here remained, this is very precious." And a taxi driver, who having the rice served with meat and vegetables on top said: "The restaurant owner totally SERVES THE PEOPLE this time ". KK Woo smiled and said, "The credits go to many people this time. In fact, our chefs also cannot go to work. Fortunately there are neighbors know how to cook so we invite them come to help. Besides, many customers are using credit cards thus not giving many tips. It is not a big issue to our waiters and they still stick to their positions because we all understand that this situation is very special."

On the other hand, the Fook Chow Pharmacy locates in East Broadway continues its operation all along. Pharmacist Fung pointed at the generator outside the shop and said, "We see a lot of pharmacies in Mott Street and Canal Street are not opened. There are so many elderly people in Chinatown. If they are running out of medicines for heart disease and high blood pressure, the consequences are hard to imagine. So I think I should continue the business. " Pharmacist Fung spoke frankly, there is no profit in these days. And he said he takes it as community service this time and hopes the elderly are fine.

Mr. Lee Cheuk Fun whose mother over 80 living in the community sighed, luckily he has prepared before the hurricane came. He said it was disappointed that many pharmacies suspend their businesses. He pointed out that running pharmacies is a business involved in lives, owners of pharmacies make money in Chinatown and became wealthy however they don’t have the awareness of helping the residents even in the situation the governor signed the order to authorize pharmacies to sell small quantities of medicines to buyers without prescription presented.

Another pharmacy CTHC locates in the Bowery is open daily from 12:00 to 3:00 since the blackout. The shop owner Amanda Hon said, worrying about some elderly people who didn’t prepared enough medicines, she had decided to continue the shop’s operation. "Regardless the profit, I will continue to run the business even at a loss." In fact, Cheung Siu Ying who is the assistant to New York State Senator Daniel Squadron, admitted after her visited the elderly living in the Confucious Plaza, lots of people reflected that they don’t have enough reservations of medicines and in needs of assistance.

In addition, people can see the changes of roles of local Chinese associations from the accident. Chinese association is one of the main features in Chinatown. In order to solve the embarrassments of Chinese immigrants, the great and good of the past brought properties and established the associations. Usually there are many activities being held in the associations but this time during the power outage, no matter the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, Lin Sing Association, Ning Yung Association, Fukien Benevolent Association or other Chinese associations, most of them close their heavy doors. Mrs. Lee who gets back to Chinatown everyday from her work in downtown Manhattan to accompany her parents also signed: "In fact, as long as they can open the door to provide a meeting place for the elderly, it is considered as a very good service, because old people can gather together to ease the pressure. Although the Chinese associations have extensive financial resources, their roles may be gradually changing. "

Sunday, October 28, 2012

SoHo BID hearing postponed due to weather

We received this from our neighbors in SoHo:

Dear Neighbors,
- The City Council Oversight Hearing on the proposed Broadway SoHo Business Improvement District, slated for this Wednesday, October 31, has been deferred due to the impending storm.  We shall update you when an alternate date is announced.
SoHo Alliance

Thursday, October 25, 2012

"Trick or Treat?" Soho BID - Business Improvement District Hearing - hosted by Councilmember Margaret Chin

WHAT: SoHo BID Council Hearing 
WHEN: Wednesday, October 31, 10:00 a.m. to ? 
WHERE: City Council chambers at City Hall. (I.D. required)

 Dear Neighbor,

 Our councilmember, Margaret Chin, has called a public hearing this Halloween, Wednesday, October 31, 10:00 am at City Hall on the proposed SoHo BID, a Business Improvement District.

 We need you there in force if we are going to defeat this. We do not understand why Chin is pursuing the issue, since it has been dormant for quite a while and is overwhelmingly opposed by the SoHo community, our other elected officials, the community board, and the local newspapers.

 The committee hearing will be conducted by the city council's Finance Committee chair, Dominic Recchia, and both proponents and opponents of the BID will present their positions at the hearing, which is expected to go on for several hours. If you are unable to arrive at the beginning, we expect the hearing to continue into the early afternoon, so you can still arrive well after it begins. Bodies Count! Please be there.

 If you are absolutely unable to attend, please email the SoHo Alliance your opinion on this BID scheme and we will present it in person to the councilmembers the day of the hearing: Below are some salient bullet points to include in your email: - The BID is undemocratic.

 For example,

condos get one BID vote per resident, but coops get only one vote per building. Thus, a 41-unit condo like 40 Mercer Street on Broadway and Grand was allowed 41 votes, while the large coop next door to it was given only one. Is that fair? Further, there is no oversight on who votes in favor of a BID, while BID opponents must jump through hoops to register opposition.

 Again at 40 Mercer: a single pro-BID resident suspiciously signed his single ballot with the names of the 41 other residents, 29 of whom don't even live in the New York, mostly Europeans renting out their condos as investment properties. He submitted no affidavit, no certified mail receipt, no notarized permission or authorization documents to validate the ballot, yet the City accepted those 41 spurious votes without question.

 However, to oppose a BID, opponents must personally request an objection form, have it notarized and then submit it along with the title deed, a hurdle clearly intended to force BIDs down our throats. Incidentally, of the total 96 'yes' votes in favor of the BID, 41 of those - 43% - were submitted by this one person from 40 Mercer on a single ballot form. Does that sound democratic to you? -

The BID is unnecessary; there are simpler, less expensive and less coercive alternatives that don't raise taxes. The SoHo BID is the brainchild of ACE founder, Henry Buhl, working in concert with real estate developers. Read here. Buhl wants the BID in order to fund his organization, ACE, the nice people who clean our sidewalks. Buhl claims ACE is losing money sweeping Broadway and a BID is required. However, there is hard evidence that Buhl would like to see the BID spread to all of SoHo and that he is underfunding the Broadway cleaning by ACE in order to create the perception that a BID is needed.

 The executive director of ACE has stated that it cost between $125,000 to $150,000 to sweep Broadway. So why does the BID require a budget of $550,000, most of it for 'administration' and 'advocacy'. Is it to pay the high salaries of the BID administrators, while the homeless people who sweep our streets get minimum wage? -

Alternative Solutions:
 * A Chamber of Commerce, as other neighborhoods like Greenwich Village and Chelsea have created, voluntarily funded by property owners and businesses and not by forced government taxation
 * A voluntary, privately-funded, merchant/residents association like BAMRA, the Bleecker Area Merchants and Residents Association, or the NoHo-Bowery Stakeholders
 * A private, not-for-profit, 501-c3 association, say, 'Friends of Broadway', funded by the real-estate developers who want this BID, which could conduct a fundraiser or benefit to secure the money to clean their sidewalks
 * Let the BID proponents, instead of taxing us, behave like good citizens and join groups like the Broadway Residents Committee or the SoHo Alliance to get, as we have, more sanitation enforcement, better police enforcement against illegal peddlers, adequate traffic control, restrictions on street fairs, etc. Since the BID was proposed over two years ago, not a single member of the BID or ACE have come to a community board or a police meeting to solve the problems on Broadway that they claim a BID would solve, while members of the Alliance or Broadway Residents Committee attended these meetings monthly - and get results!
 *Or, simply, have the Broadway stores and landlords sweep in front of their property - as we all are required to do by law without resorting to a BID. - The BID was not originated by Broadway residents or businesses, the vast majority of whom do not want it. The BID is being foisted by people who do not live in SoHo. The chair of the BID Committee lives on the Upper East Side, the director of ACE lives in New Jersey, the BID consultant lives in Chelsea, etc.

 These are just some bullet points you can use. But please do your best to attend in person. Many thanks, Sean Sweeney, Director

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

City Council to hear the NYU (Sexton) Expansion plan - please attend!

JOHN SEXTON , President of NYU, the man responsible for the out of scale 
NYU expansion

NYU FASP - Faculty of NYU Against the Sexton Plan - asks that we join them in fighting the expansion of NYU (see previous CCRC post for details)


Friday, June 29th 2012:

 The City Council holds its ONLY public hearing on the expansion plan.  

Join the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Presevation @ an
8:30 am press conference 
on the steps of City Hall, before the hearing begins. 

(If you go, try to be there @ 8:15am).  

Bring your energy, your voices, your signs. 

The hearing is inside City Hall and starts at 9:30 am. 

We hope to have a packed hearing. 


If you do go, be aware that hearing can last well into the night and that photo i.d. is required.

 Be prepared to stay for a quite a while.  

Written testimony is also accepted. 

Let's show them that we are united and will fight until we win.
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TAKE ACTION!  Want to volunteer in some way or want to get the word out?  Have some news?  Need more information?  Email

Monday, June 18, 2012

A rally against the NYU Expansion plan tonight at NY Theatre Workshop 7PM

You like the NYU Expansion plan? ...No?  We didn't think so.  Now's your chance to do something about it and have fun too.

If you don't know about it, NYU plans to jam four ginormous buildings into a two block radius, bringing in more McDonalds and Starbucks then you'd ever need. The area will be under construction for the next 20 years and will wipe out almost two acres of green space if it goes through.  NYU FASP is fighting it.  They are having a fundraiser, Monday night, June 18.  (CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION).  Please come. Please be a part of the coalition to save the Village.  Nelly Bailey and Jan Lee and many others will be there. DONATION required for entry - whatever you can afford to stop this plan.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Coverage from Downtown Express and Villager on BID overcharge scandal

BY ALINE REYNOLDS   |  Though a billing snafu for the Chinatown Business Improvment District has been resolved, it has reawakened a long-standing debate over the neighborhood’s new BID and caused anxiety among some property owners about being overcharged by the organization in the future.
The BID’s interim board of directors voted in favor of retroactively charging property owners the mandatory payments starting last October, when Mayor Bloomberg signed off on the BID’s formation. However, a group of property owners contended that the fees should only have started once state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli approved the entity at the end of January.
The property owners, backed by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, claimed the charging of fees prior to February was illegal and threatened to file a lawsuit against the city to contest the charges.
“As we have noted to the city, the BID did not exist at that point, and the BID has not yet contracted with any entity to perform its services,” said Bethany Li, a staff attorney at AALDEF. “We will work with small property and business owners in Chinatown to monitor the BID to ensure that it does not run afoul of the law again.”
Andrew Schwartz, first deputy commissioner of the Department of Small Business Services, which oversees the BID payments, said the start of the assessment fees has varied from BID to BID since there isn’t a firm policy in the city regulations.
“In light of the confusion, we basically said, ‘Let’s just go with Feb. 1 as the start date,’ ” Schwartz said. “We didn’t want people to think they were going to be penalized or foreclosed, so we reached a quick and reasonable accommodation.”
All Chinatown property owners that had retroactively paid the fees beginning last fall will be credited for four months’ worth of payment up until February and, from now on, billing for future BIDs will begin upon the state comptroller’s approval, according to Small Business Services.
By this July 1, Chinatown property owners will be responsible for paying five months’ worth of fiscal year 2012-13 assessment fees, between February and June. Fees for fiscal year 2013-14, meanwhile, must be paid in accordance with the property owners’ regular real estate tax bill schedule, which varies among property owners, according to S.B.S. Last week, property owners in the BID’s catchment area received letters both in English and Chinese explaining the changes.
Meanwhile, Wellington Chen, executive director of the Chinatown Partnership Local Development Corporation, which spearheaded the BID’s creation, said the delay in collecting fees is depriving Chinatown of vital resources. The L.D.C. has wholly financed some $300,000 worth of sanitation, holiday lighting and other BID-like services since last July, he said, and the BID’s interim board of directors has passed a motion requesting that the L.D.C. be reimbursed.
“We’ve been saving every nickel and dime, but that cannot last,” Chen said. “Regardless of when the BID clock starts, the fact is, services are being rendered.”
David Louie, chairman of the BID’s interim board, said he believes the BID is “morally obligated” to reimburse the L.D.C., particularly since funds that the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation previously provided to the Partnership have dried up.
“They did all this cleaning without even knowing where this money was going to come from,” Louie said.
Property owners such as Jan Lee, however, deem the charges premature and arbitrary and say they have lost all potential trust in the BID’s actions moving forward.
Lee and others who were suspicious of the October start date of the assessment fees refused to pay when they received the bill in late February.
“I don’t understand how this could have happened — it’s very disappointing,” Lee said. “The BID board was advised to say, ‘Someone has put money into cleaning that started last July, and someone should be reimbursed for that. Let’s use tax money guaranteed from the Department of Finance.’ It’s completely contrary to what the BID law says.”
Dean Fong, who will have to pay the BID an $800 annual tax assessment for his two commercial condominium units at 210 Canal St., also found the charges to be unlawful.
“It was very negligent on the part of the BID board who, we were told by elected officials, would be very careful and have great oversight into making sure that monies assessed to property owners would be proper,” Fong said.
Fong said he feels far from relieved by the city’s reversal of its initial decision.
“I knew they had to, or they would face a lawsuit, which would be so embarrassing for them,” he said.
Councilmember Margaret Chin denied the allegations by Fong and others, saying she reached out to S.B.S. for clarification as soon as she got wind of the objection to the fees.
“Property owners have raised their concerns with the Department of Small Business Services, and their concerns are being addressed,” Chin said. “Like other elected officials, including the mayor, I have a mandated seat on the BID board. As a board member, I will continue to represent the needs of small business owners and residents while supporting the BID in their efforts to improve the Chinatown community.”
Regardless of when the fees take effect, local property owner John Casalinuovo resents having to pay more than $2,000 annually toward the BID, particularly since city services such as trash pickups have recently been on the decline, he said.
“This is one of the most underhanded things the city has done in a long time,” Casalinuovo said of the BID. “I have no confidence in this, no matter what they would have done.”
But other property owners see value in the BID. Philip Lam, who owns a residential and office building at 38 Market St., said he would have been more than willing to fund the services starting last fall. His tax assesment for the BID amounts to $1,500 per year.
“I always support them, because they do the job,” Lam said. “Somebody has to pay these workers.”
James Tsang, whose real estate company, Prosperity Enterprises, owns 185 Canal St., said the L.D.C. deserves to be reimbursed.
“They continue to do the work and clean Chinatown. I think they deserve to get more support,” Tsang said. “Without financing, how can they hire people to do cleaning or anything else?”

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Chinatown Property Owners declare Victory in Getting the city to rescind $400,000 in illegal BID taxes

property owner Jan Lee , and AALDEF attorney Bethany Li (to the left of Jan)

On April 10th Chinatown property owners (PTP Inc.) and The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund held a press conference to declare victory in succeeding to get the City to rescind an illegally imposed Chinatown B.I.D. tax which would have retroactively reimbursed the Chinatown Partnership LDC BEFORE the Chinatown BID was even a legal entity.

""This misappropriation of our funds lived up to every suspicion that we had going into this," said Lee, 46, whose family has owned property in the neighborhood for 80 years. Lee, who has been a loud opponent of the formation of the BID, said that the incorrect fees add up to hundreds of thousands of illegal charges across different owners." - Village Voice 

"Li, from AALDEF, said it's a troubling sign that the city -- which now oversees 67 BIDs -- made this kind of error. "My understanding is [the city] just misunderstood the law, which is problematic given that this is their 67th BID."Ultimately, she added, the fees of the BID can be burdensome to longtime businesses who have to participate.  - Village Voice

"[Wellington] Chen called the issue a "technicality," dismissing AALDEF's characterization of the BID fees as being "illegal." "This is an accounting issue," Chen said. "It does not warrant wasting time and energy." - 
Read more:

According to the Interim Chinatown Business Improvement District Board of Dir's minutes:
Treasurer’s Report
Tony Wong reported that the board needs to decide on the fiscal year and the billing date for the BID.
There are two options: 1) start the billing in July 1, 2011, when Chinatown Partnership started paying the expenses for the BID; or 2) October 1, 2011 when the BID was officially approved and the Partnership extended the service to the entire BID’s service area.

Eddy Eng mentioned that once the BID decided on the billing date, the property owners will receive the bill in April, and once the BID’s bank account is set, the BID will receive 75% of $1.3 million dollars (the BID’s budget), and 50% of the FY 2013’s Annual Budget by July 2012.

After all the considerations and discussions, the motion to approve the Chinatown District Management Association’s fiscal year as July 1 to June 30; and start the DMA assessment billing on October 1, 2011, passed unanimously.

Eddy Eng also suggested using a special occasion to announce the billing to the community and in a positive way.

Acknowledgment of Chinatown Partnership
Wellington reported that the Chinatown partnership has been paying for all the BID’s expenses since July of 2011 and is now in a cash flow situation. The Partnership already laid-out more than $200,000 dollars for the BID and cannot sustain forever in this fashion.

David Louie acknowledges all the works the Partnership’s board has done for the BID and suggested a donation or reimbursement to the Partnership for the expenses they had incurred once the BID receives its funding.
Motion to approve the reimbursement to the Chinatown Partnership of necessary and verifiable expenses related to the BID from July 1, 2011 until the BID receives its own funding passed unanimously.

 CDMA Interim Board Members Present:
Jimmy Cheng, United Fujianese American Association
Kenneth Cheng, Fukien American Association
Peter Cheng, Chinatown Partnership Local Development Corporation
Stephen Cheung, D.H. Realty & Management
Anthony P. Colombini, Esq., Chu and Partners
Eddy Eng, Small Business Services, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office
Frank F. Gee, Gee Poy Kuo Association
Dr. Wilson Ko, Multispecialty Physician Group
Meng Lao, representing Jack Eng, Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association
Peter Lau, Confucius Pharmacy
Dr. Chun Ka Luk and Bernice Luk, Broadway Chinatown Realty
Gabe B. Mui, the American Legion Lt. B.R. Kimlau Memorial Post 1291
Sio Wai Sang, Golden Jade Jewelry
Tony C. Wong, Wong & Co., CPA’s
Wellman Wu, Kam Man Food, Inc.
Jimmy Yan, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer’s office
Chih-Ping Yu, Lin Sing Association
Other Class E Representatives:
Mary Cooley, Senator Daniel Squadron’s office
Karen He, Assembly Speaker, Sheldon Silver’s office
John K. Leo, Community Board #3
Michael Levine, Community Board #1
Iris Quinones, Hon. Nydia Velazquez
P.O. Nicky Teo, NYPD 7th Precinct
P.O. Sue Too, NYPD Community Affairs Bureau
Antony Wong, Community Board #2
Xiao Min Zhao, Council Member Margaret S. Chin’s office
Chinatown Partnership
Wellington Chen
Shu Mei Guan Chow Lamgen Leon
Tony Wong