Volume 19, Number 3 | June 2-8, 2006

Chinatown funeral procession delayed by traffic tickets

By Willa Paskin

Police officers delayed a funeral procession last Thursday to hand out parking tickets outside a Chinatown funeral home.

Five funeral cars were ticketed by an officer from the local Fifth Precinct as they waited outside of the Wah Wing Sang home on Mulberry St. to pick up mourners. Gordon L.W. Wong, Wah Wing Sang’s funeral director said, the officer issuing tickets parked his car so that it entirely blocked the street. As a result, none of the cars could move, delaying the funeral. “This is not right,” Wong said, “I have a bereaved family sitting inside, the casket is closed, and they are waiting to leave.”

The officer, according to Wong, was responding to a complaint that the 16 cars involved in the procession, lined up on tiny Mosco St. and waiting to turn the corner, were blocking the sidewalk. Wong spoke with the officer, who stopped writing tickets, though he had already issued five for double parking, each for $115.

Three funeral homes — Wah Wing Sang, NG Fook Funeral Services and Chinese Cheung Sang Funeral Home — sit on this two-block stretch of Mulberry St. that serve customers from all over the tri-state area, not just in Chinatown; People living as far away as New Jersey, Connecticut, and the outer boroughs bring loved ones to these funeral parlors for the proper ceremony.

Wong acknowledged that among all three funeral homes, “there are a lot of cars. It’s a lot of headache.” Wah Wing Sang alone performs an average of two funerals a day, about 600 a year, with typically 9 or 10 cars in each procession.

But funeral cars are not the only vehicles contributing to a crowded, and contentious, parking situation in the neighborhood. Because of its close proximity to the courthouse and One Police Plaza, corrections, court, and police officers often illegally park their private vehicles on the streets, taking up the neighborhood’s limited parking, and leaving no room for commercial trucks to make their deliveries, thus contributing to widespread congestion. “We’ve been fighting to have our streets back for five years,” Jan Lee, the owner of Sinotique, a Chinese Antique store on Mott St., said.

Lee also said that the parking situation has been much improved lately, as he pointed through the window of his store at a commercial truck that had been able to find a parking spot. He readily credited the Fifth Precinct and Captain Michael Lau with improving the parking situation, but he was concerned that they would give tickets to a funeral parlor. “It’s wrong to target someone performing such a vital service,” he said. Henry Ng, who works at Sam’s Deli on Mulberry St., right across the street from Wah Wing Sang, witnessed the ticketing and was also surprised by it. “Usually everyone respects those cars,” he shrugged, “It’s a funeral home.”

Though Wong plans to contest the tickets and spoke with Lau after the incident, he was understanding. He said that because the officer was responding to a complaint, “He has to come and do something. He cannot just ignore the problem.” He would have preferred, however, that the officer came and spoke with him directly. “You can’t make a big scene about it,” he said. “They could give me a ticket after the funeral.”

Lau was not available at the Precinct on Wednesday for comment. An N.Y.P.D. spokesperson also attempted to reach him or the precinct’s head of traffic, but neither was available.


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