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. "