Hundreds gathered in New York City’s Chinatown last Thursday to protest the development of a new 24-hour homeless shelter. Four shelters have reportedly been proposed in the neighborhood, which would raise the total number of shelters in Chinatown to 10 if completed.
Protestors on Thursday took particular issue with the planned seventh shelter, which would replace the shuttered Bowery Hanbee Hotel at 231 Grand St. and house 94 beds.
Some protestors argued that many of the anti-Asian crimes committed throughout the year have been by homeless people with mental health issues and expressed fear that attacks will only continue with the addition of a new shelter. Others pointed out the shelter’s proximity to Christina Yuna Lee’s former apartment on Chrystie Street, where she was tailed by a homeless man into her apartment and fatally stabbed in February.
Some in Chinatown are rejecting the idea of a 7th homeless shelter here in the neighborhood at this hotel. They fear it could lead to more Asian hate crimes like the one that killed Christina Yuna Lee just a block and a half away from here. @wcbs880 pic.twitter.com/lVLN0jfQ2y
— Mack Rosenberg (@MackRosenberg) March 25, 2022
Residents with children also expressed worries that the shelters would draw sex offenders, as level 1 and 2 sex offenders are allowed beds in the shelter.
“There’s a daycare center across the street. Churches, senior centers, multiple elementary schools are all within blocks of this shelter location,” Linda Moi, whose child attends school in the area, said. “Residents already live in fear. Seniors don’t go for their evening strolls. Businesses [are] closing early so their workers can get home safely. Schools have asked for additional patrols around their campuses.”
Susan Lee of the Alliance for Community Preservation and Betterment told NBC New York that the shelter’s proposed location would place it in a vital spot through which 7 million commuters travel every day.
New York State Supreme Court Justice Doris Ling-Cohan also attended the protest to denounce the shelter, saying, “We change our life every day because we are scared, and this putting another shelter in our neighborhood when we have six is an affront to our community.”
Advocates, like Open Hearts Initiative Executive Director Corinne Low, contend that there is misinformation about the shelter. She said that the proposed shelters would serve the homeless already living on the community’s streets and who are also at risk of being attacked.
“The one that the protest was against [on Thursday] on Grand Street is a drop-in center and stabilization bed site that is exactly designed to serve people who are already sleeping unsheltered in the community,” Low said. “This is going to offer them a place where they can drop in, get services, take a shower, have a hot meal, use the bathroom and hopefully stay for the night in a private, dignified accommodation.”
If the plans continue, the shelter may open in late May or early June.
Last Sunday, another rally was held to protest the building of what would be the world’s tallest “mega jail” in the heart of Chinatown.