Chinatown is aglow with love, peace, and joy thanks to messages of warmth from our readers.
The words provided by readers in the Warm Hearts contest provide a glow that is already inspiring Chinatown residents and business merchants alike.
During the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, as business owners were losing their livelihoods and residents were losing their homes, Wellington Chen, the executive director of the Chinatown BID, was striving to find a way to instill hope in a community ravaged by an invisible attacker.
With tourism non-existent and morale in the area falling to points of severe depression, Chen teamed up with Schneps Media to ask The Villager and amNewYork Metro readers for their assistance.
Readers submitted hundreds of open letters to the struggling and historically rich community designed to remind locals they are not alone — and perhaps more importantly — not forgotten.
“The contest is asking what would you say to someone who has not eaten? What would you say as a holiday greeting to those who are losing their jobs? It will be a message to all those who have closed to say hang in there. The message is to be kind and caring, be kind to one another,” Chen said at the contest’s inception.
Now, as the Big Apple begins its recovery process, the winners of the Warm Hearts contest aim to help that healing procedure amidst anti-Asian attacks and business hardships. The rise in unprovoked violence targeting members of the AAPI community has only served to underscore the need for support.
Currently messages of hope are inspiring passersby from the electronic display on the Chinatown information kiosk between Canal and Baxter Streets, but will soon also don large banners that will hang from lampposts and dress up vacant storefronts to remind those suffering to hang on.
All of their messages of support will be on public display to encourage Chinatown to persist during the pandemic, and offer hope for the community’s rebound.
The Warm Hearts program is only one way the Chinatown BID is helping to bring the neighborhood back.
Last weekend, the group held a welcome back party at the Chinatown Information Kiosk between Baxter and Canal Streets. More than just an informative center, the kiosk is a cultural hub, and on Mother’s Day weekend it was lit up and pumping with music, capturing the hearts of passersby the likes of which hasn’t been seen since before the pandemic.
“After 15 months of being cooped up in quarantine this is the joy and sound of music,” Chen said.
Beneath fluttering banners reading “Welcome,” the Barn Vultures—a volunteer music group from Connecticut — played their guitars and bass, performing original songs and heartfelt classics. This moment instantly captured the neon words resting atop the Kiosk: “Joy.”
For a few minutes, the hustle and bustle of the Big Apple stalled as pedestrians stopped in their tracks and whipped out their cellphones to capture life in Chinatown again.
“This is the beginning of what we call ‘Have a seat series,’ and for Mother’s Day we are welcoming you to bring your mother out, to have some joy, have some fun — none of the hatred,” Chen said with great hope for the future.
Chen affirmed the importance of showcasing love and joy, which is not only what the weekend event was built upon, but also the reason why the Kiosk is decorated with those same words. In addition, the information center is decked out with artworks denouncing hate crimes, a visual that truly surges to life after nightfall with a warm, welcoming glow. This greeting gesture permeates the lampposts and trash cans with messages hailing those to the area. It is hoped this love will help combat any xenophobic feelings.
Thanks to the alluring music and visual aesthetics, a melting pot of individuals gathered around the Kiosk with a sparkle of joy in their eyes and smiles beneath their masked faces.
Hanover Bank sends love too
Hanover Bank knows how to be a good neighbor. When the community bank heard about the Chinatown BID/Partnership’s Warm Hearts initiative they stepped up to help.
Hanover, which has a location on Canal Street in Chinatown, has witnessed the hardships of the area, such as rapid store closures and even some residents fleeing.
The bank decided to contribute $100 gift cards as prizes for randomly selected New Yorkers who submitted messages. By awarding the gift cards, Hanover bank hoped to contribute to their home’s comeback story through the warm hearts of others.
“Hanover Bank is committed to helping the communities we serve thrive and is happy to be involved in this very important initiative to support the Asian American community and Lower Manhattan which are integral neighborhoods to the fabric of New York City,” said Denise Chardavoyne of Hanover Bank.
The five randomly selected winners of the gift cards were: Alex Nguyen, Chris Moy, Giosyamirith Pacheco, Kurlene John, and Maureen Chen
Congratulations to the five winners!
To find out more about Hanover Bank go to hanoverbank.com