June 4, 2012, New York: Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE), the 128 Hester Street Tenant Association, New York City Council Member Margaret Chin, and a representative from State Senator Daniel Squadron held a press conference to announce the launch of the Justice for 128 Hester Campaign.
On August 5, 2009, 8 families – 29 people – residing at 128 Hester Street in Manhattan’s Chinatown, lost their homes due to the intentional neglect of the building’s owner, William Su. After purchasing the building in July 2007, William Su did little to correct any problems even though the building conditions jeopardized the lives of the 8 families living in the building. He then reported his building’s violations to the Department of Buildings (DOB) in order to expedite demolition of the property. The DOB noted that the deterioration of 128 Hester was due in part to the construction of an 18-story Wyndham Hotel on an adjacent property at 91-93 Bowery also owned by William Su.
The New York State Division of Housing & Community Renewal ordered William Su to pay relocation fees for the tenants on May 26, 2010, but he has refused to comply. The 128 Hester Street tenants hang in limbo, awaiting some relief from the hardship they have suffered because of the owner’s willful indifference to the condition of the building and the welfare of its residents.
AAFE is launching an open petition urging Wyndham Worldwide and William Su, the owner of 128 Hester Street and 91-93 Bowery to:
- Rebuild 128 Hester Street and restore all rent-regulated tenants into their respective units; or
- Provide permanent relocation units for the families within the neighborhood; and
- Provide just and fair compensation for their housing loss and relocation cost.
The press conference is being held in advance of the next Division of Housing & Community Renewal Settlement Conference on June 7, 2012. If a settlement cannot be reached, AAFE will launch a broader community campaign protesting the Wyndham opening expected in the late summer and will also look into potential legal actions.
“It has been over two years since the original decision and William Su has refused to even show up to the conferences to settle with the tenants of 128 Hester Street. Today, we demand justice for the tenants displaced by Wyndham’s new hotel,” said Christopher Kui, Executive Director of Asian Americans for Equality. “As the operator of the hotel, we hold Wyndham Worldwide equally accountable for the lack of action of William Su to provide just and fair compensation to the tenants of 128 Hester Street.”
“We cannot allow landlords to neglect their properties – and run them into the ground –then demolish them. These residents lost their homes, and as a community, we lost precious rent-controlled units,” said Council Member Margaret Chin. “Landlords are finding every conceivable way to deregulate rent controlled and stabilized units, and it won’t stop unless we stand up and stop them. We are here today to say: It stops with 128 Hester Street.”
“It is simply unacceptable that tenants’ homes and safety can be jeopardized because a landlord intentionally neglects a building,” said New York State Senator Daniel Squadron. “That’s why I’ve introduced legislation to prevent owners from circumventing the system and willfully neglecting their tenants’ homes. While we fight for the legislation on the state level, I will continue to stand with the residents of 128 Hester to ensure they receive the compensation and protections they need and deserve.”