Protesters call for a boycott of Chinatown hotel on Bowery

At the July 13 press conference, Peter Gee of AAFE told supporters to snub William Su’s new hotel in honor of 128 Hester St.’s displaced tenants. Photo by Sam Spokony

BY SAM SPOKONY  |  A Chinatown advocacy group has called for visitors to shun the soon-to-open Wyndham Garden Hotel on the Bowery, claiming that William Su, the hotel’s owner, “screwed over” tenants who were left homeless in 2009 after being evacuated from his crumbling property at 128 Hester St.

But Su’s attorney fired back, calling the boycott “completely groundless” and saying that the landlord will likely sue Asian Americans for Equality, the group behind the protest, for libel and slander.

At a press conference on Fri., July 13, outside the Wyndham, at Hester St. and Bowery, AAFE representatives and community leaders condemned Su for what they called his repeated refusal to provide housing or compensation to the eight families — 29 tenants over all — who were displaced when the city’s Department of Buildings ordered their building demolished in August 2009.

Recently, they said, Su backed out of a June 7 settlement conference held by the State Division of Housing and Community Renewal, after which the landlord claimed he needed another two months to propose a settlement offering.

“You know why he wanted another two months? Because he wants to wait for this story to die down,” said Peter Gee, AAFE’s director of housing and community service. “He wants to be able to open this hotel and not have anyone say anything about it.”

Su purchased 128 Hester St. in 2007, and AAFE asserts he intentionally neglected the building, leading to its demolition two years later. The group also claims, citing comments made by D.O.B., that Su’s construction of the Wyndham Hotel, in the adjacent lot at 91-93 Bowery, played a part in the structural deterioration of 128 Hester St.

In addition, AAFE has stated many times that Su still refuses to comply with a 2010 D.H.C.R. order forcing him to pay relocation fees for 128 Hester St.’s former tenants.

But Stuart A. Klein, Su’s attorney, told The Villager that D.H.C.R. voluntarily withdrew that order in February 2011 after Su filed a suit against the decision.

“I find what [AAFE] is doing to be false, and purely for the purposes of self-aggrandizement,” said Klein. “They don’t care about these people. They care about advancing their own mission.”

None of the former tenants of 128 Hester St. were present at the AAFE July 13 press conference.

Klein also said the accusations of Su’s neglect of 128 Hester St. are false, adding that Su was not the only owner of the building. He declined to state the names of the other owners, but said that there were more than five, and that his law firm represents all of them.

“My clients spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on repairs to 128 Hester, and also reconfigured the superstructure of the hotel in 2009 to prevent it from impacting 128 Hester,” Klein said. “Why would they take the time and money to do that if their intent was to neglect it?”

Hun Siu Chu, one of the former Hester St. tenants, was reached by phone after the press conference. She spoke through an AAFE translator who arranged the conference call.

Chu, 81, who now lives on Madison St., did not comment on William Su’s character because she said she hasn’t met him personally. But she explained that her displacement in 2009 left her feeling lost and frustrated, and resulted in the loss of some of her personal property, for which she hasn’t been compensated.

The AFFE associate who was translating said Chu was able to find a relocation center soon after being displaced, only thanks to AAFE and other Chinatown community groups.

But Klein insisted that his clients offered to help relocate the tenants shortly after their evacuation.

“We were going to pay all the reasonable costs to move them into vacant apartments owned by AAFE,” Klein said. “But AAFE refused that option. They said that it was Section 8 housing, and that these people weren’t qualified. I thought that wasn’t true, but they didn’t explore it any further.”