Volume 17 • Issue 6 | July 2 - 8, 2004

Letters to the editor

Too little for Chinatown

To The Editor:
Re The letter titled “Chinatown cleanliness” June 11 - June 17:

The author has unfortunately missed the central point.

As reported in Crains New York Business July, 14, 2003, “Businesses in Chinatown received an average of $7,000 in Sept. 11 aid from two federal assistance programs administered by the city and state, according to a study by the Asian American Business Development Center. That compares with $33,000 apiece for businesses in lower Manhattan as a whole.”

The same A.A.B.D.C. study in 2003 showed that in the Chinatown area,

“Percent as a whole, owners are reporting that business is down over 30 percent and many said that business is down over 50-60 percent.”

Over the same period, the Council for a Cleaner Chinatown has been actually improving the overall cleanliness of the Chinatown area in various ways. Clearly, the decline in business has a lot more to do with Sept. 11 and ignorance about SARS than affronts to the delicate disposition of some.

Another letter titled “Fulton is next to Chinatown” in the June 18-24 issue illustrates that some people also find other areas of Downtown unpleasant. The illuminating difference is that the Fulton St. corridor between the World Trade Center site and South St. Seaport is slated for a major redevelopment effort over the next two years, while scant attention has been paid to the sacrifices of the Chinatown community. Can we honestly say that the problems of Chinatown have received the same resources as those of Battery Park City or the Financial District?

I challenge all Downtown residents to throw off those stereotypes inherited from films such as “Chinatown.” Go visit the real Chinatown to discover the freshest vegetables, visit a gallery, see a show, or browse the stores. If you prefer guided tours from an insider’s point of view, contact the Museum of Chinese in Americas for their tour schedule. I promise you that your stomach and your mind will be handsomely rewarded.

Thank you, Downtown Express, for continuing to cover such issues critical to the lives of all Downtown residents and businesses.
Sai Cheong Chu
Race and Chinatown

To The Editor:
Karen Pearl might like to think that Chinatown’s problems have little to do with 9/11 (Letters, June 11-17, “Chinatown cleanliness”) but the sanitation problems that she refers to pre-date 9/11 by decades. As a lifelong resident of Chinatown, I too am concerned about sanitation problems and would like to see them addressed. Cleaner streets would better serve Chinatown but business in and around many parts of Chinatown will not improve until the fundamental problems of access are confronted and solved.

Blaming an entire ethnic community for the actions of some members of the community is a sure sign of racism. Perhaps before the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation hands out any more funds outside of Chinatown, the city and the L.M.D.C. should allocate some funds toward sensitivity training for people who walk through Chinatown’s streets and teach “them” the contributions that immigrants have made and continue to make to the economy and culture of this city and this country.

The racism, both subtle and overt, that drives post-9/11 policy and attitude toward Chinatown is astounding. The Bloomberg administration seems quite comfortable in robbing the Chinatown community of basic access to streets and emergency services in its attempt to satisfy law enforcement parking “requirements” under the umbrella of security. Ordinary non-billionaire pedestrians seem quite comfortable in linking illegal vending activity with the fate of the whole of Chinatown and pronouncing punishment for an entire ethnic sub-population for the activities of a few.
Danny Chen

Fulton is clean

To The Editor:
I really enjoy reading the Downtown Express. As a Downtown resident, both the Express and Tribeca Trib are two of our most trusted news sources. The Downtown Express is an excellent local paper.

I was surprised to read a letter about Fulton St. cleanliness (Letters, June 18 –24, “Fulton is next to Chinatown”). I live on Fulton St. a few blocks from the Seaport, and have not noticed the dirty conditions the letter writer described. Thanks to the Downtown Alliance the streets are now cleaned often. The Alliance works year round in all sorts of weather conditions to keep the neighborhood clean and beautiful. Perhaps the reader was on Fulton St. immediately following a street fair or after Children’s Day at the Seaport, before the Alliance arrived on the scene to continue their great work.
Terry Harlow

Tunnel opposition

To The Editor:
The New York State Department of Transportation has been engaged in a dialogue with the Downtown community, including Community Board 1 and the Civic Alliance, about three proposed options for the restoration of West St., one of which includes a “no build” alternative. Unfortunately, Governor Pataki confirmed that this dialogue is nonexistent in the May 7 - 13 issue of Downtown Express (news article, “Pataki backs railcar tunnels”). When an Express reporter asked the governor if he had second thoughts about the West St. tunnel he said, “No, not at all.”

A Pace Poll Survey Research Study published March 15, 2004, states that Lower Manhattan residents “oppose the plan to re-route a portion of West Street through a tunnel.” In yet another opinion survey conducted by Blum & Weprin Associates and published in May 2003, residents, when asked about constructing a West St. tunnel, placed it at number 10 on their list. In other words, the people who would be affected most did not see it as a priority. So, if this is a democracy and the community was able to take a vote, as they should, the proposal to build a West St. tunnel, at a cost of almost a billion dollars, would be shot down.

On Thursday, April 15, 2004, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that New York City did not meet its new standard for ground level ozone or what is commonly known as smog. Construction and congestion would promote, not hinder, the formation of smog on West St. and in Lower Manhattan. If New York City wants to comply with the E.P.A.’s new standards by 2010, the West St. tunnel should definitely not be built.

I agree with Sen. Schumer, when he said, speaking to the Regional Planning Association on April 16, that, “Surely we can create an appropriate setting for a 9/11 memorial and reknit Battery Park City and the World Financial Center for less than $225 million per block.”

In fact, we can. According to the Coalition to Save West Street, low-cost examples include widening the sidewalks and adding tall, shady trees; fostering retail activity along West Street; enforcing speed limits adding crosswalks and eliminating concrete barriers.

This project has the mark of Robert Moses written all over it. As Moses had a blatant disregard for New York City residents, as well as entire neighborhoods, so do the D.O.T. and Gov. George Pataki if they go through with this plan. The proposed West St. tunnel is a disaster for the environment, for the community, and for the thousands of people who live and work in Lower Manhattan.
Robert E. Thibault

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