News & Politics

Scenes from the Chinatown Border War


Today’s story “Lower East Side Rezone Sparks Border War in Chinatown” highlighted the opposition to the city’s plan to rezone 111 blocks in the Lower East Side and East Village. Critics say the plan protects the wealthier, whiter parts of the Community District 3 from aggressive development but ignores the poorer sections—Chinatown, the Bowery and the far East Side.

We captured the chaotic scene at the May 12th town hall meeting, where opponents greeted community board members and city planners outside with cartoons and signs depicting Bloomberg as a rich racist:

Inside, the protesters disrupted the meeting with 15-minute intervals of chanting: “Lower East Side not for sale! Chinatown not for sale!”

Wing Lam, shown here as a police officer unsuccessfully tried to quiet him during the meeting, is director of the Chinese Staff and Workers Association. He lives in Brooklyn but works in Chinatown, where he fears new development will price out the low-income families that are part of his association.

Community Board 3 Chair David McWater told the Voice that, logistically, it was faster to leave Chinatown out of the plan because it is spread across three different community boards and its current zoning is complicated. Currently, the area to be rezoned comprises the north half of Community Board 3:

“I think it’s very sad,” Pat deAngelis, a 32-year resident of CB3, said as she surveyed the chaotic scene. “We worked for a couple years on this, and this is the best we can do with the city. Now these people are sort of late arrivers. They haven’t been paying attention and all the sudden they found out what’s happening and they’re upset because they’re not included in the rezoning. But it’s not the community board that chose the boundaries, it was city planning. If they protest any place it should be at city hall or city planning, or at the developers.” De Angelis lives within the area to be rezoned, where the city will implement incentives for developers to build “affordable” housing; However, the income targets for those units are another point of contention. “We all want affordable housing,” deAngelis said. “The question is always – what do you mean by affordable?”

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 21, 2008

Archive Highlights