Mayoral hopeful Andrew Yang and Manhattan City Council Gigi Li were given a brief tour of a community in need while traveling to their latest endorsement in Chinatown Tuesday.
Walking through the area, Yang received waves and fist bumps from many onlookers, a number of whom see him as a would-be savior for a neighborhood ravaged by COVID-19 and anti-Asian violence.
Before endorsing Yang outside Hwa Yuan at 42 East Broadway, officials from the Chang Le America Association, the Fujian Foundation in USA, and the United Overseas Fujianese Association of America walked their pick for mayor around the East Broadway Mall, which is now a barren collection of empty storefronts.
After viewing the vacant spaces behind glass windows, Yang pledged to help restore the mall to its former glory if elected.
“This means a lot to our community and to me personally. I grew up the son of immigrants personally and I vividly remember when my parents would bring me and my brother into Chinatown to do some shopping,” Yang said, sharing his memory of a once bustling, vibrant Chinatown, but looking at the East Broadway Mall, it really highlighted the degree of devastation the area has faced over the past year.
Yang added, “But we just visited a mall that has been essentially abandoned that is owned by the city. There are vacant storefronts where these stores were very busy and vibrant not that long ago. The reality is that Asian American retail districts and neighborhoods like this have been hit as hard as any other community by the coronavirus pandemic.”
Following the tour, Yang and Li (who Yang cross-endorsed for the City Council District 1 seat), addressed the press and onlookers regarding the way in which they will fight for Chinatown businesses to be seen and receive aid. Yang applauds the recent federal funds being distributed to Broadway by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, but also says that while this is a good start, legislators should not forget the small businesses in areas like Chinatown.
“Part of it is that the relief that so many small businesses have received has not necessarily reached the business owners here in this community. But also we should acknowledge that there has been an increase in racism against Asian Americans and that includes folks being reluctant to come into areas like this one,” Yang said, promising to help and make change.
Yang promises to make fundamental changes for these small businesses who he believes simply just want to support their families.
“These organizations represent the small business owners that have been the lifeblood of this community and so many others,” Yang said, adding “The reality is right now our recovery depends upon being able to activate commercial districts like this one.”