Asian American community members rallied on Grand Street in Chinatown on Tuesday after the fourth Asian New Yorker in two months died from a violent attack.
The demonstration took place after the death of 62-year-old GuiYing Ma, who was struck in the head with a rock while sweeping her sidewalk in November and fell into a coma. Police responded to the incident and arrested 33-year-old Elisaul Perez of Brooklyn and charged him with felony assault and harassment. He could face upgraded charges.
According to a GoFundMe set up in her name, Ma came to the U.S. four years ago from Liaoning, China, and was known as “an outgoing, friendly and kind individual who took care of everyone, and insisted on giving to others even when she had very little to give.” The attack left her with permanent brain damage. She died Feb. 22.
The demonstrators held signs reading, “We Demand Real Solutions for Homeless and Mental” and, “Save Chinatown: Our Risk is Real.” Several speakers noted that homeless individuals had been connected to recent attacks and called for tougher enforcement and prevention efforts.
“We don't want to be ignored,” said Jacky Wong of Concerned Citizens of East Broadway. “Because we feel like our risk is not recognized.”
The rally took place one block from the home of Christina Yuna Lee, 35, who was murdered in February in her apartment after being followed home. Police charged Assamad Nash, 25, with her murder, and said he’d been living in a nearby shelter.
We don't want to be ignored. Because we feel like our risk is not recognized.
Increasingly, local residents are pushing back against plans by the city to place homeless shelters in the neighborhood, such as a "safe haven" proposed for a former hotel at 91 East Broadway, arguing that the area is disproportionately being saddled with facilities.
City officials, however, say they are simply responding to where homeless New Yorkers are present, as well as safety issues faced by the homeless.
“After the tragic quadruple murders of four individuals in Chinatown in Fall 2019, elected officials and communities across the City called for concrete steps to strengthen our supports in the area for vulnerable New Yorkers living unsheltered,” wrote Isaac McGinn, a spokesperson for the Department of Homeless Services and the Department of Social Services, in a statement.
He added: “and we agreed, which is why we’ve sited these specialized resources in Chinatown, including Safe Havens and stabilization beds, which will provide a vital resource for individuals experiencing unsheltered homelessness, particularly downtown.”
The NYPD said anti-Asian hate crimes increased by 361% in 2021 over the previous year. Mayor Eric Adams on Monday said the NYPD had been “too slow” in designating and investigating incidents as hate crimes.
Mary Wang recounted a recent personal incident outside her daughter’s building.
“There was a homeless person lying in front of the steps, and I asked the police for help. And you know what he said to me? ‘What can I do?’ What can I do! This is ridiculous. They want to help but they’re not given the power to do much.”
The NYPD has initiated a citywide effort to clear homeless New Yorkers from the subways, in response to Adams’ declaration to dismantle “every encampment in our system.”
But homeless advocates have argued that the plan does not offer solutions for homeless individuals, once they’re forced out of the subway system, and the mayor’s budget proposal calls for $615 million in cuts for homeless services.