Back when Queens meant Jewish and Catholic middle class residents, it became the pivot that helped move Ed Koch into the Mayor’s office through opposition to housing projects. Koch’s shift from Village radical to liberal with sanity began there.
Liberal Lindsay and his New York City Housing Authority chairman, Simeon Golar, were met with their first demonstration in December 1966 when 30 women picketed Borough Hall. They also were met with fierce opposition led by Jerry Birnbach of the Forest Hills Residents Association. A Manhattan congressman named Ed Koch later allied himself with the protesters.
At the time, Forest Hills consisted of predominately Jewish people who had left Brooklyn and the Bronx due to prior destructive building schemes perpetrated there by Robert Moses and other city politicians. The project, planned for 108th Street and 62nd Avenue, the former site of a golf driving range, was scaled down from 24 stories and 840 units to 12 stories and 430 units by local attorney Mario Cuomo.
Koch was open about opposing the project over fears of crime and loss of property values.
Now Bill de Blasio has made housing projects into a key feature of his administration. Putting homeless people in hotels was supposed to act as a counterpart to the New York Times’ Dasiani hoax story. Instead it has resulted in another backlash in Queens.
These days Queens is much more Chinese. And they aren’t any fonder of having their neighborhood trashed than the Jews or the Italians were.
The crowd of 500 included grandmothers and small children, Chinese immigrants and the president of a local Republican club, all shouting that the mayor had trampled their rights.
The source of their anger? The 180 homeless families that New York City had moved into the defunct Pan American Hotel in Elmhurst, Queens. The residents felt nervous around the new arrivals, they said. There were reports of shoplifting from the Good Fortune Supermarket, public urination and panhandling — all things, they said, that had been unheard-of in their neighborhood until now.
Those are just some of the fun things that Bill de Blasio is spreading around New York. Along with dirty campaign cash.
Because many of those opposed to using the hotel as a shelter are Chinese immigrants, the conflict has also produced discomfiting images of immigrant families and the mostly black and Latino homeless families shouting insults at one another.
It’s the same discomfiting images as before. There are immigrant groups that want to work and do well. And there are those that don’t.
Typically, the city consults extensively with local officials before opening a shelter, a process that can take up to a year. In this case, the Department of Homeless Services notified the local City Council member on the evening before the first families were moved into the hotel, and other elected officials only later. State Assemblyman Francisco P. Moya, one of several officials who have criticized the city’s handling of the shelter, called the failure to notify him in advance “absolutely unacceptable and a complete dereliction of duty.”
That’s just Bill de Blasio trying to be Obama. Consulting is alien to his nature.
Rachel Lam, 33, said she believed the government was bullying Asians because they assumed Asians would be silent.
“But when it comes to our home, our children, our community, our safety, we will come out and protest,” Ms. Lam said.
“When you see them, it looks like they’re going to mug you,” Linda Chang, 50, said in Mandarin. “It makes me feel uncomfortable.”
On an evening earlier this month, many residents who live behind the hotel expressed similar fears.
Mark Gao, 32, a wok chef at a Sichuan restaurant in Manhattan, said that his wife was nervous to walk home alone at night from her restaurant job, and that he had told his nieces not to play outside without an adult.
“Why does the government want to support this group?” Mr. Gao said in Mandarin. “Why do they want to give them free money? We have to work from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.”
Don’t get too excited. They’re not about to start voting Republican, but…
1. They are the country’s fastest growing minority
2. And they’re a lot more likely to vote Republican once they understand that the system of social welfare is stacked against productive groups.