Photos by Giovani Savino; www.giovanisavinophotography.com.

On July 12, 2012, Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) led a spirited protest in front of the soon-to-open Wyndham Garden Chinatown and officially announced the launch of the Justice for 128 Hester Campaign.  A rally and news conference outside the hotel was joined by the 128 Hester Street Tenant Association and the Association for Neighborhood Housing and Development.

On August 5, 2009, 8 families – 29 people – residing at 128 Hester Street, lost their homes due to the intentional neglect of the building’s owner, William Su.  After purchasing the building in July 2007, Mr. Su did little to correct problems even though the building conditions jeopardized the lives of the 8 families living inside.  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 (DHCR) 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 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.  On June 7, 2012, DHCR held a settlement conference between the landlord and the tenants; however, the landlord has refused to negotiate in good faith.  AAFE held the press conference to update the larger community about the landlord’s refusal to respond to tenant demands and announced future plans of action.

“It has been over two years since the original DHCR decision and William Su has refused to take up the responsibility to settle with the tenants of 128 Hester Street,” said Christopher Kui, Executive Director of Asian Americans for Equality.  “We are gathered here today as a community to say enough is enough and to demand justice for the 128 Hester Street tenants.”

AAFE announced the following three initiatives, as part of the Justice for 128 Hester campaign:

#1 – A stepped up petition drive on behalf of the residents of 128 Hester Street. The petition calls on Wyndham Worldwide and William Su to:

  • Rebuild 128 Hester Street and restore all rent-regulated tenants to their apartments; or to
  • Provide permanent relocation units for the families within the neighborhood; and to
  • Provide just and fair compensation for their housing loss and relocation costs.

#2 – A vigorous effort to reach out to elected officials and to community leaders, urging them not to attend the opening of the Chinatown Wyndham Hotel.

#3 – A publicity campaign asking people to refrain from booking hotel rooms and patronizing the Wyndham Garden Chinatown.

“The landlord himself never showed up to discuss settlement,” said Mrs. Mak, a former tenant of 128 Hester Street. “It has been so many years since we were displaced and it is simply unfair.  We need the community to support our campaign.”

“It is simply unacceptable that tenants’ homes and safety can be jeopardized because a landlord intentionally neglects a building,” said 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.”

For more information, visit our Justice for Chinatown web site.

CLICK HERE TO SIGN OUR PETITION.

Watch a video report from the rally:

 

PRESS COVERAGE

Chinatown Residents Claim They Lost Homes Due to Owner Neglect (link) – NY1; July 13, 2012.

Ousted Hester Street Residents Demand Compensation (link) – DNA Info; June 5, 2012.

Three Years After Their Building Was Demolished, Rent Regulated Tenants Fight For Compensation (link) – Real Deal;  June 6, 2012.

Hotel Plans Face Protest (link) – Wall Street Journal; July 5, 2011.

Landlord Broke Building, Should Fix It, Tenants Say (link) – The Villager; September 16, 2009.

60 Tenants Thrown Out as Chinatown Tenement Shut (link) – Downtown Express; August 14, 2009