Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Chinatown Working Group AUDIO - Questions and comments on the Pratt Planners presentation

This audio recording was made at the last Chinatown Working Group presentation by the Pratt planners hired by the CWG to come up with a finalized plan to present to the City. This session is the comment and questions period following their previous presentation two weeks earlier. The full plan is accessible here by clicking this link.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

L.E.S. Dwellers has been suspended by Community Board 3 Chair Gigi Li and district manager Susan Stetzer.

L.E.S. Dwellers has been suspended by Community Board 3 by Chair Gigi Li and district manager Susan Stetzer.

Highly-vocal block association LES Dwellers is being muzzled by Community Board 3. Effective September 23, 2013, the group will be suspended for three months. Timely news just ahead of the SLA subcommittee meeting later tonight where a number of Hell Square items are calendared.

Below is the LES Dwellers’ response to the seemingly controversial action…
"Community Board 3’s decision to suspend the LES Dwellers for 3 months effective Sept
23, 2013 – or more specifically, the procedurally deficient decision of CB3 Chair Gigi Li,
and District Manager, Susan Stetzer, without seeking Board approval – constitutes a
serious violation of the First Amendment’s right to free speech.  

Specifically, the LES
Dwellers was suspended not because the group engaged in unlawful behavior, but rather
because Li and Stetzer objected to certain opinions being expressed by the LES Dwellers,
the manner in which the group chose to express them, and the persons with whom the
group chose to communicate them.  

The First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech is
not only infringed when a government entity prevents one from speaking, but also when it
“chills” free speech by threatening or implementing punishments in response to the
decision to speak freely.  That is precisely what CB3, through its Chair and District
Manager, have done.

Specifically, the LES Dwellers learned of the following consequences for our fully lawful
● CB3 will not recognize the LES Dwellers during public session
● CB3 will publicly discredit the LES Dwellers, stating our suspension at the meeting
and that we are not a recognized group
● CB3 will not refer applicants to our organization
● CB3 will accept testimony and agreements with applicants only from individuals and
not the LES Dwellers as a group

In response to Community Board 3’s actions, L.E.S. Dwellers filed a complaint with the
Manhattan Borough President’s office. The complaint includes an audio recording of the
entirety of the conversation between the LES Dwellers and Li and Stetzer, in which the LES
Dwellers were told of the suspension and the reasons therefore, as well as the Community
Board suspension letter and response letter from the LES Dwellers, including 81 pages of
supporting supplemental material.

The LES Dwellers calls on Manhattan Borough President to take swift action in response
to Community Board 3’s suppression of the group’s constitutional rights, including reversal
of the CB3 decision and whatever punitive action may be deemed appropriate given the
severity of a Constitutional violation by members of the Board.  Although the LES Dwellers
want to give the Borough President the first opportunity to condemn and rectify this highly
inappropriate behavior, the group is considering all available courses of action, including taking legal action against the board and the offending officers.

Writing for the Supreme Court of the United States, Chief Justice Warren Burger clearly
explained that “constitutional violations may arise from the deterrent, or ‘chilling,’ effect of
governmental [actions] that fall short of a direct prohibition against the exercise of First
Amendment rights. . . .  [G]overnmental action may be subject to constitutional challenge
even though it has only an indirect effect on the exercise of First Amendment rights.”  (Laird
v. Tatum).  Here, CB3’s position, that if and only if the LES Dwellers limit the way in which
they choose to lawfully advocate for their positions will we be officially recognized by the
Board, forces the LES Dwellers to choose between fully exercising our right to free political
speech and participating fully in the CB3 process.  No government entity has the lawful right
to insist an advocacy group make such a choice.  This attempt to intimidate and punish the
LES Dwellers into advocating according to CB3’s wishes is a low point in the history of
New York City Community Boards."-   L.E.S. Dwellers

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Chinatown's Garbage Juice - smell the progress

      It's July, we're in a heat wave. The stench rising from the streets and gutters of Chinatown is enough to make you lose your appetite. The kids going to and from Columbus Park are holding their noses while they squint their eyes nearly shut trying to avoid the sickeningly sour rotting smell that hangs in the summer air.

Despite efforts of restaurant owners diligently scrubbing their sidewalks every morning, the stink remains.
The stains from nightly drenchings marinate the porous cement and macadam until every pore is glazed over with a slick pungent goo.

It's garbage juice.

The garbage trucks that come around to pick up the black bags of food scraps from hundreds of restaurants, leave behind a toxic stew of fermented and rotting food mush as they crush and compact the bags in the back of their trucks with 15000 lbs of pressure. Every squeeze dribbles or vomits another load of who-knows-what.

The summer heat cooks the mess.

Stand too close to a garbage truck on its rounds and you'll be the unlucky recipient of a garbage juice shower as the muffled "pop" "pop" "pop" of black bags burst open and spray and arc of brown liquid.

There was a day when the City of New York would open fire hydrants, wash streets and even come around nightly with a street sweeper that wet down the streets while it scrubbed with hard rotary brushes every inch of gutter. No more.  There were promises of a "Cleaner Chinatown" , promises of a more "tourist-friendly" environment from millions of dollars taken from Chinatown itself, but frankly I can't see it, and I certainly don't smell it.

These days when a street sweeper comes around , it's as though the smell offends even the driver, he speeds through as fast as he can, rendering the machinery useless.

And so, Chinatown and its residents, its businesses ,the oh-so-precious tourists are left to slog through the choking mist of summer garbage juice long after the ruptured bags have been scurried away in the dark of night.

The mystery remains though, in the light of day. "What the **** is that smell!?!?"  you hear it over and over again.  Who else can be "blamed" but the Chinese walking in the street?

Mayor Bloomberg and his high and mighty Board of Health stand proudly on their pedestals for having "successfully" installed the letter grading system for "some" but not all food establishments (delis that cook and serve food are mysteriously exempt). Ironically they would FAIL their own grading criteria for providing a dangerous and toxic environment for the residents of Chinatown. It's simply, there is no adequate cleaning of City owned streets in all of Chinatown.

      So the next time you hear about how successful the "clean streets" program is, and how a Business Improvement District will "fast track" problems straight to City Hall,

walk through Chinatown in mid summer,

take a deep breath, (that's it both nostrils, no cheating)

 - and smell the progress.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Civic Center Residents Coalition Jan Lee on "the Races" 2013 - Downtown Express - Undercover

Under Cover, May 15, 2013 The Downtown Express
Jan Lee        Photo: CCRCNYC.com

Lee on the Races  
Chinatown leader Jan Lee has had his share of political fights with Margaret Chin over the years so we were surprised last week when he told us he hasn’t ruled out supporting her reelection bid to the City Council.
“Margaret and I are certainly cordial,” he told us, saying their disagreements have always been about issues. Lee, a founder of the Civic Center Residents Coalition, fought against the creation of the Chinatown Business Improvement District, which Chin strongly supported.
“We need to talk in a very candid way about the next four years on how she would improve,” Lee added.
His biggest concern is neighborhood traffic problems caused by several things including the security closure of Park Row. He said he has been dealing with family issues, but he hopes to be able to speak sometime soon with Chin and her Democratic primary opponent,Jenifer Rajkumar.
He has flirted in the past with running himself, but said he definitely will not be on the ballot this year.
In other races, Lee is backing Comptroller John Liu for mayor and Julie Menin for borough president.  He praised Liu’s work exposing the CityTime scandal, and Menin’s effort helping to get the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed trial moved out of Lower Manhattan.
“We really connected on that issue,” he said of Menin. “I find her to be a good problem solver and not just a complainer.”
Chin Notes  
Speaking of Councilmember Margaret Chin, we had been thinking she scheduled her announcement strategically around the time of Downtown Independent Democrats’ fundraiser in Battery Park City to lessen the chance of naysayers attending, but even Chin critic and D.I.D. veteran Sean Sweeney, who often ascribes ulterior motives to opponents, said there was nothing to the theory.
Sweeney said Chin showed up to the fundraiser right after the announcement and “she gave more [of a donation] than the average politician gave.”
He did take a dig at Chin, pointing out she did not win the Coalition for a District Alternative endorsement that she won four years ago. CoDA voted not to endorse, but its most powerful member, Councilmember Rosie Mendez,  is backing Chin.
Chin’s campaign spokesperson, Austin Finan, laughed at the notion that Chin is weaker without CoDA.  “Whatever makes them sleep at night,” he told us.
He said in addition to support from Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver and Cong. Nydia Velazquez, Chin will be getting nods from most if not all of the local elected officials.
“We’re stretching it out so to speak,” Finan said.
City Move  
A last quick one on Margaret Chin. Amy Varghese has just joined her staff as the new communications director. She replaces Kelly Magee, who is now working in the press office at the Dept. of Buildings.
Rockwell,  Imagination & Reality   
We were recalling the hoopla that began five years ago when renowned local architectDavid Rockwell started talking about designing — at no cost — a new Downtown playground with professional playmates (Rated G of course), a k a “play associates,” to help children interact with innovative, movable equipment.
We paid a visit the other day with a 3-year-old source close to UnderCover to see how the promise of Imagination Playground was holding up three years after opening.
The playmate at the Seaport park did not seem to do any sort of play facilitation, which seemed fine since perhaps it’s better for kids to, well, use their own imagination.
Rockwell’s large and light building blocks are more than a nice touch, although creativity apparently extends only so far since we were told to bring one of them back to the approved block play area.
Overall, the design puts the playground above most in the city, but what really sets it apart is the well-maintained bathroom and the extremely clean sandbox — no small measure considering pediatricians and public health experts will tell you that germ-wise, sandboxes are the most hazardous part of a playground.
Bike Monitors  
We noticed city Dept. of Transportation workers Tuesday holding up stop signs on the Ninth Ave. bike lane when the bike lights turned red. D.O.T.’s Scott Gastel said the rush hour program started last month and is part of the city’s effort to make sure things are safer when the new bike share program rolls out Memorial Day.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

RISE OF THE TIGER NATION - Wall Street Journal reports of Chinese Americans

The Wall                                                         Street Journal
· Updated October 27, 2012, 9:32 a.m. ET

Rise of the Tiger Nation

Asian-Americans are now the country's best-educated, highest-earning and fastest-growing racial group. They share with American Jews both the distinction and the occasional burden of immigrant success.


New U.S. citizens take their oaths in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
Last March, an interviewer archly asked President Barack Obama whether he was aware that he had been "surpassed" by basketball phenomenon Jeremy Lin "as the most famous Harvard graduate." The question was misformulated. If there was any surpassing going on, it was that Mr. Lin had become, briefly, more famous than Mr. Obama as the country's most exemplary figure from a hitherto marginalized minority.
Asian-Americans are now the country's best-educated, highest-earning and fastest-growing racial group. They share with American Jews both the distinction and the occasional burden of immigrant success. WSJ's Stu Woo talks to author Lee Siegel.
Mr. Lin's triumph on the basketball court is a living metaphor for the social group he comes from. No one would dispute the opening paragraph of the Pew Research Center's massive study of Asian-Americans, released over the summer: "Asian-Americans are the highest-income, best-educated and fastest-growing racial group in the United States. They are more satisfied than the general public with their lives, finances and the direction of the country, and they place more value than other Americans do on marriage, parenthood, hard work and career success." Or as Mr. Lin put it in a video of congratulation he made last spring for the overwhelmingly Asian-American graduates of New York City's famed Stuyvesant High School: "Never let anyone tell you what you can't do."
[image]Mark Peterson/Redux
Percentage of Asian-Americans who believe that hard work leads to success, versus 58% of the general public
Source: Pew Research Center
Mr. Lin might well have been thinking of a troubling backhanded homage to Asian-American success. Once upon a time, threatened elites at Ivy League schools like Harvard and Yale secretly established a quota—known as the "numerus clausus"—for the number of Jews allowed through their exclusive gates. Today, some of these schools stand accused of discrimination against Asian-American students who, according to recent studies, must score higher than whites on standardized tests to win a golden ticket of admission. It seems that, despite their very different histories in this country, Asian-Americans now share with American Jews both the distinction and the occasional burden of phenomenal immigrant success.
Asian-Americans have become the immigrant group that most embodies the American promise of success driven by will and resolve. When, six years ago, the Korean-American management consultant Yul Kwon won the 13th season of "Survivor," it must have been a social scientist's dream come true. The show's producers had separated that season's contestants into ethnically and racially divided groups: white, black, Hispanic and Asian-American. Never mind the sorry lack of taste. The crude segregation also served as an illumination, bringing to the surface America's eternal subterranean scrimmage between newly arrived tribes. Mr. Kwon's victory made abstract social trends vividly concrete. Not only had Asian-Americans gone beyond Hispanics as the most populous group of new American immigrants. They had risen to the top in the pursuit of the American dream.
For the purposes of demographic studies, Asian-Americans are defined as Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese, with the Chinese being the largest group and the Japanese the smallest. The Pew study is rich with statistics: The Indians and Filipinos lead Asian-Americans in household wealth, Asian-Americans vote mostly liberal, the Japanese and Filipinos are most likely to marry outside their group, more Chinese-Americans than any other Asian-American group say they are doing better materially than their parents were at a similar age.
And Asian-Americans increased their numbers faster than any other race between 2000 and 2010, growing by 46%. From 1980 to 2010, the Asian-American population quadrupled, with Chinese-Americans becoming by far the largest group. Tom Buchanan, F. Scott Fitzgerald's racist bully in "The Great Gatsby," would have plotzed (as my Russian-Jewish relatives might have said). At one point in the novel, Buchanan expresses his alarm over the "yellow peril": "The idea is if we don't look out the white race will be—will be utterly submerged."
Although the fictional character's fears might strike us as alien and repellent today, it is not just a blessing but also historically peculiar that more Americans don't feel the same way, especially given Asian-Americans' breathtaking success. America has always been a place where rapid assimilation of strangers was accompanied by brutal opposition to same.
To be sure, beginning with the large waves of Asian-American immigration in the latter half of the 19th century, the mostly unskilled Asians who worked the farms and mines and built the railroads met violent, sometimes lethal prejudice. Such hostility was officially sanctioned by legislation banning, at different times, Chinese women, all immigrants from China, and then, in 1924, immigrants from any Asian country, period. The internment of Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor is unique in American history—no other immigrant group has ever been imprisoned on American soil en masse because of ethnic guilt-by-association. But since 1965, when the Immigration and Nationality Act opened the doors to immigrants from Asia, their assimilation into American life has proceeded without the turbulence often faced by other groups.
Asian Americans share with American Jews both the distinction and the occasional burden of immigrant success.
[image]Getty Images
Woody Allen
[image]Getty Images
Albert Einstein
Contrast the Asian-American saga with that of American Jews, the immigrant group most like them in terms of accomplishment and stability. Central and Eastern European Jews also began coming to America in the late 19th century, but because they didn't incite the ferocious racial hatred that Asian-Americans first confronted, they established themselves more quickly. At the same time, since they were less culturally reticent and more socially ambitious than Asian-Americans, Jewish immigrants also faced more egregious obstacles to mobility than Asian-Americans did when America once again allowed them in.
By the 1930s, when the only Asian presence in American movies was Charlie Chan, Jews had invented Hollywood out of whole cloth. Back in New York, Jews began redefining stagecraft and acting with the founding of the Group Theater in 1931. Though barred early on from elective office by the Irish, who for a long time had a monopoly on the insurgent ethnic side of mainstream American politics, Jews had already reached the highest political echelons as close advisers to President Wilson. In the 1930s, they were the core of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's so-called brain trust, his inner circle of wise men. By the end of World War II, Jews had achieved prominence in just about every realm of American life.
Yet furtive prohibitions against Jews, as well as entrenched anti-Semitic attitudes, thrived even after the Holocaust, though that unprecedented atrocity had the effect of eventually ending the Ivy League quotas on Jewish admissions. What socially ambitious Jews aspired to were the Elysian fields of WASP bastions such as rarefied country clubs, exclusive professional clubs, white-shoe law firms, prestigious foundations and the like, and these were the very institutions that resisted them the most intensely. As late as 1975, Saul Bellow could complain to an interviewer that "a few years ago it was fashionable to describe Roth, Malamud and me as the Hart, Schaffner and Marx of writing. The Protestant majority thought it had lost its grip, so the ghetto walls went up around us."
As it happened, 1975 was one year before Bellow was awarded the Nobel Prize, after winning the Pulitzer once and the National Book Award twice. Contrary to Bellow's somewhat delighted fantasy of persecution, the ghetto walls had come down around Jewish cultural figures decades before. The perception of anti-Semitism often exceeded its reality because, after the Holocaust, any expression of hostility toward Jews got amplified from muted social ugliness into loud moral crime. But there was another factor at work. Having attained prominence and social power, Jews could be disproportionately vociferous and visible in their complaints about rejection and exclusion.


Asian-Americans say American parents put too little pressure on their children to succeed in school
Source: Pew Research Center
Along with their outsider theological status—something not shared by Asians, many of whom are practicing Christians—one reason that anti-Semitism persisted even as Jews ascended in American life was that Jews were frequently in the vanguard of American social and political dissent, from the anarchist Emma Goldman to Yippie Abbie Hoffman and beyond. Not only that, but many of the architects of America's archenemy, Soviet Communism, had been Jews. As the WASP establishment lost ground to Jewish newcomers, the words "communist" and "Jew" often became synonymous. The association of Hollywood with lax morality, and of Jews with Hollywood, heightened a kind of low-grade hum of anti-Jewish feeling, even as it proved the general acceptance of the Jewish sentiments and sensibility that permeated American entertainment.
Asian-Americans have followed the opposite trajectory from Jewish-Americans. Toxic racism and then prohibitions against immigration prevented them from rising in American society for nearly a century. And then they did so with unique alacrity. Jewish immigrants, whether in the 19th century, in the 1930s as refugees from Hitler or in the 1980s as refugees from the Soviet Union, came here for the most part without a penny to their name. Today, Asian-Americans arrive in America more highly educated, and more prosperous, than any other immigrant group.
Associated Press
U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu
[image]Getty Images
Yul Kwon, winner of the 13th season of 'Survivor.'
Getty Images
Comedian Margaret Cho
Getty Images
Author Amy Chua
Asian-Americans have tended to avoid realms of activity, like politics and entertainment, where what might otherwise be considered the liability of transparent emotion—or the easiness of faking emotion—is a natural asset. Asian cultural prohibitions against public emoting play a role in these choices. There are, of course, numerous Asian-American culture figures and a handful of Asian-American national politicians. But physiognomies whose expressiveness is often lost on Western eyes and a deeply ingrained modesty have, relatively speaking, kept most Asian-American groups away from the public glare and thus out of the cross hairs of American bias and hatred. Insofar as they do play public roles, Asian-Americans are more likely to do pro bono work as lawyers, or to serve in public clinics as doctors, than to appear behind a podium at a political debate or to flicker on the silver screen.
Yet the astounding success of Asian-Americans raises the dark question of how long they will be able to resist attracting the furies of fear and envy, especially during times of economic stress, or of economic and political conflict with countries like China, where the preponderance of Asian-Americans still come from. If China does one day become an explicit antagonist, it seems likely that the anxiety among Chinese-Americans will be even more intense than that of American Jews every time the allegiances of the American-Jewish lobby are questioned.
Some of the more vehement attacks on Amy Chua's deliberately provocative 2011 memoir of child rearing, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother," were perhaps fueled by resentment of Asian-American ascendancy, especially in the context of raising "perfect" children. Confession: I was one of the book's more vocal detractors. Was I, a Jewish-American writer, driven to pique, in part, by a member of a group that threatens Jewish-American cultural domination, just as American Jews once threatened the WASP mandarinate? Well, maybe.
The subtle vying for success in various realms of American life between Asian-Americans and American Jews makes one wonder what mores and tastes will look like when Asian-Americans begin to exert their own influence over the culture. Will the verbal brio and intellectual bent of Jews, their edgy irony and frank super-competitiveness give way to Asian discretion, deference to the community, and gifts for less verbal pursuits like music, science and math? Will things become, as they once were under WASP hegemony, quieter?
Not if the mercurial nature of culture has anything to do with it. Think of the wild Korean-American comedian Margaret Cho, who belongs on the same family tree of comic art as the wild Jewish-American comedian Sarah Silverman. Jeremy Lin himself, in his video for the class of 2012 at Stuyvesant, included an antic rap song performed with an Asian-American friend. And the speaker who addressed the high school's graduates in person last June was the 32-year-old Chinese-American actor Telly Leung, a star of the hit TV series "Glee."
Mr. Leung spoke for over 20 minutes, joking, shouting, making ironic quips, teasing and provoking. At one point, he boasted that he had overthrown his parents' middle-class expectations of stability and security and made them redefine their idea of the American dream. He sounded, dare I say it, like a certain type of Jew. Which is another way of saying that he sounded like everyone who comes to America from somewhere else and ends up exemplifying, anew, a native irreverence and vitality that is as old as the American hills.
—Mr. Siegel is the author of four books and, most recently, the e-book "Harvard is Burning."