A host of controversial posters have been popping up around the Lower East Side over the last several days denouncing local political leaders in what many residents feel are racist attacks.
“Chinzilla” exclaims one flyer displayed on the window of 345 Grand St., which depicts local Council Member Margaret Chin as a rampaging Godzilla-esque creature destroying a city with the tagline “Stop Margaret Chin from Destroying our Neighborhood” scrawled across the bottom.
This image was first posted by East River Park Action’s Instagram account, an organization founded to prevent the reconstructing of the public area named after John V. Lindsay. While the association has stated over social media that they did not design the shocking poster, the act of sharing it to their over 1,000 followers caused quite a stir, prompting them to later delete the post.
At the storefront displaying the flyer, a neighbor shared her opinion in regards to what she believes the issues are at hand, while also conveying that she hopes the flyer prompts individuals to talk about the council member.
“Once in office, Margaret Chin was not interested in representing Chinese people, nor Black, Latino, or white working-class people. It’s been about representing the interests of rich people to displace us,” she said, referring to the recent rent increases after a series of rezoning measures. “She has always in her actions, no matter what policies she has supported or blocked, divided our community and pit us against one another. So, she is really destroying our community.”
Democratic District Leader John M. Blasco of the 74th Assembly District was one of the first to take umbrage with this representation of Chin, calling out the East River Park Action’s Instagram page for supporting this xenophobic behavior.
He shared screenshots of the posts on Twitter — prompting other political leaders, such as Senator Brad Holyman and Assemblymember Harvey Epstein to also condemn the flyer. Many of them shamed the East River Park Action organization for their Instagram post and requested a formal apology be made to the council member.
“Everyone can disagree on the plan. That is not my issue. My issue is this coalition posting a flyer of Council Member Margaret Chin and calling her Chinzilla. Godzilla is a Japanese film, and Council Member Chin is an Asian council member. If someone can’t tell me how that’s not racist or xenophobic then I don’t know what is,” Blasco said.
.@ERPAction this is RACIST! First slandering @CarlinaRivera — saying you have PTSD from East River Park construction? A chain link fence?What? Ever heard of New Orleans? Puerto Rico? Then you post a racist xenophobic poster about @CM_MargaretChin. This is disgusting @PatArnow pic.twitter.com/epku1CD4VT
— John M. Blasco 白斯高 🇵🇷🏳️🌈 (@JBlascoNYC) December 2, 2020
In addition to this flyer, Blasco shared that other posters slandered Council Member Carlina Rivera. He has noticed that throughout the Lower East Side, plastered across empty billboards and lamp posts, are flyers stating that Rivera and Mayor Bill de Blasio are “Destroyers of East River Park.”
Both of these posters underscore a discontentment with the upcoming East Side Coastal Resiliency project, which is said to be a $1.4 billion plan to reduce flood risks, improved access points to the park, and enhance open spaces. The reconstruction will cover from Manhattan’s East Side from East 25th Street to Montgomery Street.
The East River Park Association (a coalition of Lower East Side residents) is against this construction, which they call a demolition of the East River Park.
After reaching out for comment, the organization stated that they are not the owner of the flyer in question, adding, “We apologize and regret posting.”
Pat Arnow, a longtime Lower East Side resident and member of the East River Park Association, believes that the elected city officials should be held accountable for the effects the East Side Coastal Resiliency project will have on the community.
“We are asking officials to halt the East Side Coastal Resiliency plan as long as we need parks for social distancing during COVID. This is a very crowded, mostly low-income neighborhood, and East River Park is the only large open space in the area,” Arnow said.
Additionally, the organization states that the current plan will destroy 60% of the park and are requesting a greener solution.
Reached for comment, Chin called the posters “hurtful and ridiculous.”
“As an elected official, I know that disagreements are inevitable when the community is faced with change,” she said. “We should remember that at the end of the day, we are each other’s neighbor. Our neighborhood has the opportunity to access an additional $340 million from the federal government for this project and delaying it forfeits that funding. I hope we can be respectful in our advocacy moving forward.”
Rivera also weighed in on the contentious flyers, telling amNewYork Metro that she respects the community’s difference of opinion.
“I think the majority of debate has been thoughtful and sincere by all. It’s why I pushed so hard for the numerous commitments the community sought with this needed storm climate resiliency project, including upgrades and expansions of countless neighborhood parks and NYCHA community facilities, new permanent protected bike lanes on Houston Street and Avenue C, a study on the future of the FDR, and increased agency oversight and community reporting during construction of the project.”
Rivera also underscored that the poster in question took things beyond civil disagreement.
“These recent actions by East River Park Action have been hateful and show a lack by some individuals in that organization to fully relate to the multi-faceted concerns facing District 2 residents when it comes to climate change. I hope that group’s leadership apologizes and works to better incorporate communities of color into their leadership structure and an anti-racist structure practices into their overall advocacy,” she said.