The Chinatown Ten Appear in Court Following Arrests at Anti-Jail Demonstration
Members of the Chinatown Ten and their supporters (including City Council member Christopher Marte, left, and attorney Edward Cuccia, right) gather on Monday, before their appearance in Manhattan Criminal Court.
The coalition of ten Lower Manhattan community leaders (including two candidates for public office) who were arrested on the morning of April 13 as they protested the start of demolition at the Manhattan Detention Complex (MDC)—in a preliminary move by the administration of Mayor Eric Adams to replace that facility with the world’s tallest jail—were due in court on Monday morning, to answer summonses for disorderly conduct. Their arrests stemmed from the decision of the group to engage in civil disobedience, by kneeling in the middle of Baxter Street to block construction vehicles from accessing the MDC site.
Before appearing in Manhattan Criminal Court, the group gathered outside the Municipal Building, at the corner of Chambers and Centre Streets, to reaffirm their ongoing resistance to the jail project, which has been bitterly denounced by a broad array of Lower Manhattan leaders.
Their attorney, Edward J. Cuccia, who lives and practices in Chinatown (and is representing the group on a pro bono basis), said, “it is a great honor to represent these people, who were arrested protesting against this ridiculous jail. We’re going to ask that these summonses be dismissed, even though we are clearly all guilty of disorderly conduct—we were disorderly for the purpose of making a political point to stop this jail. Obstructing traffic in furtherance of a peaceful, lawful protest against the construction of this jail is exactly what we did. We are going to argue that this was an exercise of our civil rights to assemble, to protest, and to engage in free speech.”
When a member of the crowd asked whether the group are willing to be arrested again, they all shouted in unison, “yes!”
City Council member Christopher Marte said, “the Chinatown Ten put themselves on the line to get the Mayor to keep his promise.” This was a reference to a statement made by Eric Adams, before he was elected Mayor, when he joined a rally against the jail plan in 2021. At that event, the then-candidate said, “the problems we are facing can’t be solved with incarceration and the destruction of communities. So I am here with you, standing side by side. No new jail! No building up a jail at this location!”
Mr. Marte continued, “we’ve been fighting this for three years. This coalition is growing and momentum is building.”
Vittoria Fariello, an elected District Leader who is also a candidate for State Senate, recalled, ‘three years ago, when I attended my first protest against this plan, my daughter asked, ‘why are we building jails instead of schools?’ We were arrested for standing in solidarity with the Chinatown community. If we have to do this over and over again for our voices to be heard, we will.”
The Chinatown Ten block Baxter Street on April 13, in a protest that led to their arrests.
Grace Lee, a Lower Manhattan activist and community organizer (who is also a candidate for the State Assembly), said, “the irony of sitting in a jail for protesting a jail is not lost on me. That sacrifice was worth it to shine a light on the systemic racism that Asian-Americans have faced throughout the history of this country and still face with this jail. This week is the 140th anniversary of President Chester Arthur, whose monument still stands in Madison Square Park, signing the Chinese Exclusion Act to prohibit Chinese from coming into this country. Forty years ago, when the Chinatown community protested the construction of the MDC, then-Mayor Ed Koch told the community, ‘you don’t vote, so you don’t count.’ Building the world’s tallest jail in the heart of Chinatown does nothing to address the systemic issues we are facing at Rikers Island,” the City’s primary detention facility, which is notorious for civil- and human-rights abuses, and is slated to close by 2026. But in order for Rikers Island to shut down, the plan’s supporters argue, the MDC must be demolished and rebuilt, while large jails are also built in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx.
“This will simply transfer those issues to another building in the center of a working class community of color,” Ms. Lee continued. “This jail represents a threat to the health, the environment, and the economic vitality of Chinatown. We are tired of the racist stereotype that casts Asians as passive and silent. That is why I was willing to get arrested, and am willing to do it again. To show that we have a voice and will fight back.”
Also arrested on April13 was Evelyn Yang, wife of former presidential and mayoral candidate Andrew Yang. She said, “May is Asian Heritage Month, when we are supposed to be celebrating our culture, and contributions. It is ironic that I, along with the rest of this group, am walking into court for defending Chinatown’s right to exist. There is no question that this community is under attack. The racism here is overt. This skyscraper jail is institutionalized hate against Chinatown. This is nothing short of a hate crime.”
When a spectator asked Ms. Yang whether Monday’s event would have been necessary (and whether the April 13 arrests would have occurred) if her husband had been elected Mayor, she replied with an emphatic, “no.”
Jan Lee, a widely respected community leader in Chinatown, who is a co-founder of Neighbors United Below Canal (NUBC), a community organization that opposes the plan to demolish and rebuild MDC, continued, “I am proud to stand beside people who are willing to put themselves in front of a moving truck. This mega-jail is on the site of four previous jails. Incarceration is a system of profit. They plan to spend $8.3 billion on these new jails.”
“The last time any affordable housing was built in Chinatown,” Mr. Lee recalled, “was the Confucius Plaza apartments in 1976. Since then, we have been given homeless shelters and methadone clinics and jails. But we don’t have new schools or hospitals.”
After the Monday morning rally, the group marched together to the Manhattan Criminal Court at One Centre Street, to appear before Judge Rachel Pauley. In a striking display of official confusion, it turned out that five of the Chinatown Ten had been arrested without the legally required documentation, in spite of the fact that protest leaders had provided the names of the group in writing to the police in advance of the April 13 demonstration. These cases were dismissed immediately.
Among those whose arrests were deemed legally valid, one defendant (Victoria Lee) was unable to appear, because she is traveling. That case was held over until June. In the remaining four cases, Judge Pauley granted an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal, which means that if the defendants have no further brushes with the law during a specified period of time, the charges against them will be dismissed. Interestingly, such adjournments in New York criminal matters usually require that defendants stay out of trouble for a minimum of six months, and sometimes up to a year. But, in a gesture that may have been intended to convey respect for the defendants and sympathy for their cause, Judge Pauley reduced this interval to just 24 hours. In a further accommodation to the defendants, the Judge also ordered that records for the cases be sealed.
After the court hearing had ended, Mr. Cuccia said, “justice has prevailed, at least for today. Ten heroes, arrested while protesting against the demolition of the Chinatown jail, were willing to take a stand against political stupidity and corporate greed.”
In addition to Vittoria Fariello, Grace Lee, Evelyn Yang, Victoria Lee, and Jan Lee, the Chinatown Ten include Jack Liang, Howard Huie, Irving Lee, Susan Lee, Jillian McManemin.
Tribeca Loft Buildings to Share a Rooftop Addition
The owners of a pair of adjoining buildings within the Tribeca South Historic District plan to add two stories to top of the pre-Civil War structures, which requires approval from the City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). The buildings at 62-64 Reade Street (located on the north side of the street, between Broadway and Church Street) are typical of the loft-and-store structures that were common in the neighborhood throughout the nineteenth century.
Tonight, May third, the Church Street School for Music & Art will hold an evening of music to support ongoing aid efforts for Ukraine. The performance will be headlined by Ukrainian-born violinist Nadia Khodskovska, and feature faculty members from the Church Street School. The benefit concert, which starts at 7pm, will be held at the school’s 41 White Street headquarters. All funds raised will be donated to Razom, a non-profit Ukrainian-American human rights organization, to support the refugee relief effort. Tickets are priced at $25. To make a reservation, or request more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or browse: churchstreetschool.org
To the editor,
I started reading your paper regularly last month and discovered something I have not been able to find online: The Arrivals and Departures section!!!
I have searched for a while to see if there was a schedule where I can find out when the cruise ships would be passing by the Colgate Clock and always came up empty.
I have lucked out and occasionally seen them quietly moving up the river in the evening. They are really stunning to see and I was so delighted to see you include that schedule in your paper!
My new Sunday routine is to read your Broadsheet perched on my window sill in the morning and catch up on everything happening in my neighborhood.
New Arts Colony Emerges Half a Mile from Lower Manhattan Shoreline
Governors Island no longer has a “season,” in the sense that Lower Manhattan’s equivalent of Central Park is now open year-around. But spring, and the prospect of summer, are still the highpoint in the annual calendar of this treasured public amenity, and a growing collection of public art has become one of the principal reasons to visit.
In a few months, construction will begin on the South Battery Park City Resiliency Project, a flood barrier system that, within a couple years, will extend from the north side of the Museum of Jewish Heritage through Wagner Park and across Pier A Plaza. The Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) is making efforts to educate the public about its resiliency plans. One of the best ways to understand the changes in store for the Battery Park City landscape is to take a BPCA-led resiliency walking tour.
Niou and CB1 Push Longer Leases, Caps on Cost Hikes, and a Voice for Residents
State Assembly member Yuh-Line Niou has introduced a pair of bills in the Albany legislature that closely track recent resolutions by Community Board 1 (CB1), and address a trio of issues that have long vexed local leaders.
In celebration of NYC’s Circular City Week, join BPCA and the TRUE zero waste certification team for a walking sustainability tour offering an in-depth look at zero waste efforts in Battery Park City. Stick around after the tour to get hands-on experience performing a waste audit. Registration required, click into the event to sign up.
In the award-winning documentary short Zaida, Sophie Parens tells the story of her grandfather, Holocaust survivor Dr. Henri Parens. Born Henri Pusnizowski in Lodz, Poland in 1928, Dr. Parens survived two French detention camps until his mother encouraged him to escape. At age twelve, Henri was on his own. A year later, Henri made it to Pittsburgh where he became a celebrated psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. Join the Museum for a screening of Zaida, followed by a conversation with Sophie about her film, her grandfather’s legacy, and our responsibility to continue his life’s work. Free; suggested $10 donation.
Observe and sketch the human figure. Each week a model will strike short and long poses for participants to draw. An artist/educator will offer constructive suggestions and critique. Drawing materials provided.
Embolden your artwork amidst the flower-filled and seasonally evolving palette of BPC’s verdant gardens. An artist/ educator will provide ideas and instruction. Materials provided, and artists are encouraged to bring their own favorite media.
Learn about William H. Whyte, one of the most influential writers and analysts of American cities and society in the second half of the twentieth century. From his bestselling, seminal book The Organization Man of 1956, to the revelatory The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces of 1980, “Holly” Whyte’s work changed how people thought about careers and companies, cities and suburbs, urban planning and open space preservation. Whyte’s keen eye for urban observation and clear, insightful writing on human behavior in public space, both preceded and enabled the voice of Jane Jacobs to burst forth in print in the 1960s, first as her editor at Fortune, then as an instrumental figure in the publication of Death and Life of Great American Cities.
Immerse yourself in this meditative practice- surrounded by the Hudson’s peaceful aura. Strengthen the body and cultivate awareness in a relaxed environment as your instructor guides you through alignments and poses. All levels are welcome. Bring your own mat.
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Swaps & Trades, Respectable Employment, Lost and Found