So my flight into New York this week was cancelled, and with my old roommate also out of town, I don’t have a solid idea of what state our Chinatown building is in (except that there is definitely a freezer-full of sausage and shrimp lying in wait). Like much of the country, I’ve been obsessively monitoring the news and interwebs this whole week, trying to get a grasp of the scale of mayhem (or for those Uptown, lack thereof).
What has become painfully clear is that not only were some areas devastated beyond recognition (Staten Island, Breezy Point in Queens, Lower East Side, Coney Island), some have also been virtually ignored by authorities in the relief efforts. While it certainly hasn’t suffered the same structural damage and loss of life, one community that has experienced gross inequities in post-Sandy recovery includes — SURPRISE! — Chinatown.
While lower Manhattan has been without without power all week, Chinatown and the LES have also suffered water shutoffs in public housing, food shortages, and a huge vacuum of information from officials about just what the fuck to expect next. While people wait in endless lines for help, FEMA and city officials have for the most part been conspicuously absent.
Thank effing goodness for CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities, which has been the only organization to address the dire and immediate needs of the community. CAAAV became first responders by providing phone charging, in-language information, food, batteries, and mercifully — a system to check up on elders and the disabled in high rise buildings who are cold, hungry, and in the dark — stuck in their buildings without working elevators. Meanwhile, just next door, Wall Street has Xmas lights lit up in the streets.
As CAAAV leadership well understands, this isn’t the first time Chinatown has clearly not been a governmental priority for recovery efforts (9/11), and it likely won’t be the last. Thankfully, many volunteers have showed up to make donations and drop off supplies. Check out updates from CAAAV on relief efforts and needs here, and if you can’t go in person, please consider making a donation.
Let’s demonstrate to the people of Chinatown and LES that we care about them, even if Bloomberg and the NYC hypercapitalist, profit-driven agenda don’t seem to give two shits about immigrants and people of color, the working class, and New York’s most vulnerable residents.