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BY ALINE REYNOLDS | As of March 1, Chinatown has a new “honorary” mayor. Last Thursday community members, elected officials and the media gathered at the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association to celebrate the appointment of Paul Ng as the organization’s new president.
“C.C.B.A. acted as the City Hall of Chinatown [in the early years], and that is why the president of C.C.B.A. was always referred to as the unofficial ‘Mayor of Chinatown,’” according to a description of the president’s position posted on the C.C.B.A. website.
The event involved much fanfare, including the singing of the Chinese and American national anthems, the turning over of the keys to the C.C.B.A. offices, the adornment of the auditorium where the ceremony was held and a wrapped gift officials handed to Ng.
Established in 1883, C.C.B.A. is one of Chinatown’s oldest community services, offering adult English classes, naturalization and free tax services to area residents. Ng, who is replacing two-year president Jack Eng, served as the vice president of the Lin Sing Association for the last four years, where he attended to numerous complaints from community members – including helping to arrange the funerals of the victims of a World Wide Travel of Greater New York bus crash last spring.
“He’s very humble – he’s a working guy,” said Eddie Chiu, a senior advisor at the Lin Sing Association.
Flanked by fellow community leaders, Ng took the podium last week to introduce himself and discuss his goals as C.C.B.A. president.
“Under my leadership, C.C.B.A. will continue to support the Republic of China’s democratic government,” said Ng. “I believe the Republic of China and the U.S. government share the same democratic principles.”
Ng added, “We’re going to try to rebuild Chinatown – a lot of things have to be done.”
Following the ceremony, Ng said he also hopes to have Park Row, which was closed after 9/11 for security reasons, reopened to vehicular traffic.
“[Fewer] visitors are coming down to Chinatown since they closed Park Row,” said Ng. “We also want to open up [new] parking space and improve parking meters, so people coming down have enough time to dine out and stay for shopping.”
Asked what it’s like to be called Mayor, Ng said, “I don’t want the title, I just want to get my job done. It’s a lot of responsibility – you take the position, and you have to care for everything.”
Several of the elected officials commented on how Ng has big shoes to fill. Jack Eng, C.C.B.A. president for the past two years, successfully persuaded the Taiwanese government to donate a statue of Chinese revolutionary and former president, Dr. Sun Yat-sen, to Columbus Park late last year.
“He’s the father of China – he’s like Washington in America,” said Eng.
As C.C.B.A. chief, Eng also helped to transfer a torch sculpture, which now sits in the C.C.B.A. offices, and a neighborhood parade to commemorate the 100th birthday of the Republic of China.
Councilmember Margaret Chin vowed to make Columbus Park the permanent home of the Yat-sen statute. Of the past and current president, Chin said, “He made the Chinese community and City Councilmembers work closer together, and we will continue that work with Paul Ng.”
NYC Comptroller John Liu, who was hounded by media reporters firing questions about the recent arrest of his campaign treasurer, also made an appearance. “Over this period, our community has seen many successes, but none of them without hard work and some difficulty,” said Liu. “That’s the history of our community as an immigrant community.”
Liu continued, “C.C.B.A. each year gets bigger and better than ever before — it brought not only the C.C.B.A. but our entire community to better heights. This is a celebration of the passing of the torch!”
“We both grew together – I tried to follow your lead in terms of delivering services,” said NYC State Senator Daniel Squadron, who raced from Albany to issue a Senate-prepared proclamation thanking Eng for his leadership.
Stringer, who also presented a proclamation to Eng, jokingly named March 1 C.C.B.A. of Greater New York day, honoring the president’s inauguration.
“It only lasts 24 hours!” Stringer quipped.