Private Danny Chen Way is dedicated in Chinatown

Part of Elizabeth St. was renamed for Private Danny Chen on May 17.  Photo by Nicolas Fernandes
Part of Elizabeth St. was renamed for Private Danny Chen on May 17. Photo by Nicolas Fernandes

BY NICOLAS FERNADES  |  section of Elizabeth St. between Canal and Bayard Sts. in Chinatown was renamed Private Danny Chen Way on Sat., May 17, honoring the U.S. Army soldier who died in Afghanistan after racist hazing committed against him by his platoon.

Chen, 19, was bullied and taunted by other soldiers for being a Chinese American. They threw rocks at him and dragged him across the ground, before investigators believe he shot himself in the head.

Eight soldiers were charged in the case. However, none were ever tried for involuntary manslaughter, the original charge prosecutors sought against some of the defendants. Seven were found guilty of hazing-related charges and the eighth was thrown out of the military.  Five were sentenced to prison for short periods of time.

Sook Ling Lai, executive director of the Chinatown Head Start, wants the school’s four- and five-year-olds to keep learning about who Chen was and that he died fighting for America.

“The sign will remind them that their brother Danny will never be forgotten,” Lai said at the May 17 ceremony.

Many others spoke and reminded everyone what Chen was known for.

“We’ve lost one of the best young men in Chinatown,” said Eric Ng, president of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association.

Cousin Banny Chen described how he was two years younger than Danny and thought he was catching up with him every birthday when they were younger.

“Now I am 21 and he is still 19,” he said. “I never wanted to surpass him.”

Banny Chen talked about his memories of the two of them running up and down Elizabeth St. together as children and the first time they were allowed to leave Elizabeth St. and ate at McDonald’s on Canal St.

P.S. 130 Principal Lily Woo said she was honored to host a commemoration ceremony because Chen attended preschool there.

After the event, everyone was given a balloon and marched to the corner of Canal and Elizabeth Sts., where the new street co-naming sign was revealed.

Chen’s mother Su Zhen Chen cried in front of the site.

Councilmember Margaret Chin, who helped lead the local advocacy efforts for Chen’s family, attended the ceremony, along with Public Advocate Letitia James and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

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