Is the Mayor Honoring Sun Yat-Sen to Neutralize Opposition to Proposed Chinatown Jail? [Op-Ed]
The following editorial was written by vociferous Chinatown activist Karlin Chan.
In a shameless display of “carrot dangling,” councilwoman Margaret Chin arranged for Mayor de Blasio to visit Chinatown during the Lunar New Year celebration last week (February 5). While delivering the usual New Year greetings, he announced two specific honors for Dr. Sun Yat-Sen: the eight-year-old statue in Columbus Park would become permanent and the northern section of the park would be renamed for the founding father of the Republic of China. Purportedly a way of honoring the contributions of the Chinese in New York City.
Was this the “community benefit” Margaret Chin had been touting? Or was this another lame idea to smooth over community opposition to the proposed Chinatown jail?
The setting for this farce was the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA), the group which is vehemently opposed to the jail. Did she think that Chinatown would accept the proposed prison in exchange for a statue? Or was this possibly a veiled threat to the CCBA that if they didn’t play along with the proposed jail, the renaming of Columbus Park’s northern section would be pulled?
In hindsight, Mayor de Blasio, who I feel is anti-Chinese, had never visited Chinatown during his tenure until opposition to the proposed jail at 125 White Street became an issue. Nor has he ever really shown concern for the wellbeing of NYC’s Chinese/Asian population. Never once has he publicly condemned racist graffiti or possible hate crimes; he balked at a school holiday for the Lunar New Year until legislation was passed in Albany. Why the sudden change of heart?
Then again, neither has Margaret Chin until the recent attack at a Chinese restaurant in Sheepshead Bay that left 3 employees dead. (Uncharacteristically, Chin took the lead in a neighborhood rally in front of the restaurant which was boycotted by NYC’s Chinese community save a handful; de Blasio also issued a short statement.)
The closing of Rikers Island, and the incoming community-based jails plan, has come under increasing scrutiny across the Five Boroughs. Not just here in Chinatown. Community activists and civic organizations in Kew Gardens, Mott Haven, and Brooklyn are in opposition to proposed neighborhood sites. Even former New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman was critical of the high-rise mega-jails; his Commission on New York City Criminal Justice and Incarceration Reform had called for smaller facilities, not the 1,500 sizes that de Blasio wants.
So, for now, the game continues with the recently formed NAC meetings fully stocked with Chin cronies, while the councilwoman continues to tell the community that opposing the jail is useless because it’s a done deal.