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Voices in Focus: Tenant Advocates Protest New Chinatown Hotel

July 30, 2012 4:37 pm Leave a comment By  | Via , , , A+ / A-

Today we have mix of news, arts and lifestyle coverage from New York’s ethnic and community press, including a Chinatown advocacy group calling for a boycott of a soon-to-open hotel; a historic LGBT site set to be demolished; saris on sale during Ramadan; and the 35th Annual Asian-American International Film Festival.

On July 13, Asian Americans for Equality held a press conference to protest a new hotel owned by William Su. (Sam Spokony via The Villager)

* Asian Americans for Equality, a community development and housing advocacy group, has called for a boycott of the Wyndham Garden Hotel on the Bowery, claiming that hotel owner William Su “screwed over” his former tenants, The Villager reported. In August 2009, the Department of Buildings ordered one of Su’s buildings demolished, displacing 29 tenants.  Responding to the protest, Su’s attorney called the boycott “completely groundless” and threatened to sue AAFE for libel and slander.

Su purchased 128 Hester St. in 2007, and AAFE asserts he intentionally neglected the building, leading to its demolition two years later. The group also claims, citing comments made by D.O.B., that Su’s construction of the Wyndham Hotel, in the adjacent lot at 91-93 Bowery, played a part in the structural deterioration of 128 Hester St.

The State Division of Housing and Community Renewal had required Su to pay relocation fees for the tenants.

But Stuart A. Klein, Su’s attorney, told The Villager that D.H.C.R. voluntarily withdrew that order in February 2011 after Su filed a suit against the decision.

“I find what [AAFE] is doing to be false, and purely for the purposes of self-aggrandizement,” said Klein. “They don’t care about these people. They care about advancing their own mission.”

* In the early 1970s, 186 Spring St. in SoHo was a kind of informal community center for the burgeoning gay rights movement, hosting both parties and political discussions with a revolving cast of tenants and drop-ins that included the activists Arnie Kantrowitz, Jim Owles and Bruce Voeller. Now a company wants to knock down the building to build luxury condominiums, reported Gay City News, while veterans of the gay rights movement want to see it landmarked and preserved.

For Kantrowitz, protecting the site is an obvious choice. He said “It’s part of the story of New York.”

The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, asked in 2006 that a large part of the South Village be designated a historic district, Gay City News reported.

“We’ve been asking the city to do something about this area for years now,” said Andrew Berman, the society’s executive director. Generally, the city has not protected sites that have historic value to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.

“The current [Landmarks Preservation Commission] has shown very little interest in protecting or recognizing the city’s LGBT history,” Berman said. “There is definitely no site in New York City that is designated because of its importance to LGBT history.”

The Stonewall bar on Christopher Street, the site of the 1969 riots that are seen as launching the modern gay rights movement, is a state and federal landmark, but New York City has not protected it.

A Jackson Heights store was fully stocked with bangles for Ramadan sales. (Photo by Smriti Rao/DNAinfo)

* While fasting, prayer and reflection dominate the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the month ends with celebration, gift-giving and feasts. To prepare for the Eid celebrations that mark the end of Ramadan, stores in Jackson Heights, Queens are offering Ramadan sales on saris, jewelry and accessories, reported DNAinfo, which recommended three stores to check out (and ran some nice pictures as well).

Despite the discounts, shoppers on the street said they would still haggle to get the best price for their goods.

“I will get a kurta for this Eid,” said restaurant worker Bilal Kadeer, 25, in Hindi. “But even in a sale, you can bargain.”

* Feet in 2 Worlds has a run-down of this year’s entries to the 35th Annual Asian-American Film Festival, running through August 5 at at Clearview Chelsea Cinemas, the Asia Society and the Museum of Chinese in America. (Here’s the schedule.) The festival features several movies that explore questions of identity for Asian-Americans, including this one:

“A Lot Like You”… is a documentary by Eliaichi Kimaro about her singular life experience as a half-Tanzanian, half-Korean first generation American.

“[Kimaro's] particular film is more to draw attention to people who are bi-racial and mixed race, and to illustrate the ties between your families and two different cultures and how that relates to you as an individual,” said Foung.

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