Attorney General James Encourages New Yorkers to Support Asian-American-Owned Small Businesses During Visit to Chinatown

AG James Tours Chinatown Businesses and Convenes
Community Dialogue to Combat Anti-Asian Hate and Violence

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today led a group of local elected officials and community leaders in a walking tour of Manhattan’s Chinatown to support small businesses that have been financially devastated by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Together, the group visited local restaurants and shops, and encouraged New Yorkers to patronize Asian-American-owned businesses in Chinatown and other neighborhoods. Following the tour, Attorney General James held a community conversation with organization leaders to address the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes, discuss community concerns, and reiterate solidarity for New York’s Asian-American community.

“New York is a state that treasures diversity and embraces acceptance, which is why we will never allow xenophobia or hatred to win,” said Attorney General James. “It is imperative that we support and uplift each other during challenging times, which is why, today and every day, we stand in solidarity with our Asian-American community and we will do everything we can to ensure their wellbeing and safety. We’re in Chinatown today to embrace Asian-American-owned businesses, and we encourage all New Yorkers to support struggling small businesses, especially in communities that have been devastated by this pandemic.”

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Attorney General James, Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou,
District Leader Jenny Low, and community leaders walk through Chinatown

Asian-American-owned businesses have been suffering longer than many other businesses due to xenophobia and fear since the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Chinatown alone, small businesses reported losses of 60 to 80 percent as early as February 2020 — prior to New York’s first confirmed COVID-19 case and the state’s lockdown last year. Additionally, the recent rise in anti-Asian hate crimes has since placed further financial burden on businesses that were already struggling — causing many Asian-American-owned businesses to reduce operating hours and implement additional security measures to protect their staff.

Showing her support for Asian-American-owned small businesses, Attorney General James visited the Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory; ordered lunch at Hop Lee Restaurant and heard from employees about their plight to stay afloat; and distributed free meals at 46 Mott Bakery with the shop manager and volunteers.

Today’s visit is the latest in Attorney General James’ efforts to combat hate crimes in New York state. In March of last year, Attorney General James launched a Hate Crimes and Bias Prevention Unit and revamped her Hate Crimes hotline for New Yorkers to report hate crimes and bias-based incidents. Earlier this year, Attorney General James filed a lawsuit against an individual in Schenectady for choosing his victims based on race, in violation of New York Civil Rights Law § 79-n. Attorney General James has committed to continue to use the authority in New York Civil Rights Law § 79-n to prosecute hate crimes.

“I applaud Attorney General James for standing behind the Asian-American-owned small businesses that make up the heart of my community and represent an irreplaceable part of New York’s culture,” said State Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou. “Businesses were closing in my community even before Chinatown had a single recorded coronavirus case, and the work to rebuild from this pandemic will continue long after COVID-19 is behind us. Attorney General James is modeling the compassionate leadership we should expect from all public officials.”

“We so appreciate the attorney general visiting Chinatown today and highlighting the continued need to support our community, which is still struggling to recover from the pandemic,” said District Leader Jenny Low. “The attorney general has been a long-standing friend of the Asian-American community. Last year when there was a spike in anti-Asian attacks and hate crimes, the attorney general quickly established a hotline for New Yorkers to report any anti-Asian hate crimes, and she strongly condemned these racist acts. I’m especially grateful to Attorney General Tish James for joining me and other leaders for a vigil after the killings of Asian-American women in Georgia. Together, we will ensure Chinatown and other Asian-American communities come back stronger and more resilient.”

“The Asian hate crimes have been challenging for our community as the unwarranted blame on us for the coronavirus disease ignited a series of assaults on our residents and continues to deter many people from visiting Chinatown,” said District Leader Justin Yu. “However, we are buoyed by the hope that leaders like Attorney General Letitia James will inspire people to look past the lies and connect with us again.”

“We would like to thank Attorney General Tish James for her commitment to an equitable recovery,” said Wayne Ho, president and CEO, Chinese-American Planning Council. “The Asian-American community has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, from high mortality rates to a 6,900 percent increase in unemployment to the rise in anti-Asian violence. We are pleased to see her bring additional attention to the challenges faced by the Chinatown community and look forward to continue working together to implement effective solutions to support community members. While Asian-American New Yorkers were the first to suffer from the pandemic, we will ensure that our community will not be the last to recover.”

“Ever since the start of this once-in-a-century pandemic, Chinatown has been one of the communities to first take a deep dive and is still reeling from its devastating impacts,” said Wellington Chen, executive director, Chinatown Partnership Business Improvement District. “Now, on top of COVID-19, it has to contend with yet another virus of hatred and fear, that is why we are so grateful that Attorney General James is here today to show solidarity and support with us as we begin this long road back to recovery. We are determined to not let anything beat us or keep us down.”

“Our small businesses have suffered tremendous losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but what hurt the most was the way people relentlessly attacked our community just for being Asian,” said Kenny Leung, vice president, Lin Sing Association. “In their minds, being Asian was the equivalent of the COVID-19 virus itself. Thank goodness Attorney General Letitia James is visiting Chinatown because we know she understands what we are going through and will work hard to remedy the pain.”

“Our Asian heritage sentenced us to a guilty verdict of causing the global COVID-19 virus,” said Raymond Tsang, president, Hoy Sun Ning Yung Benevolent Association. “This false narrative was stoked by racist people who were adamant in pitting the blame on us. As a result, the blame dismissed us as being unworthy of financial and emotional help. Now, help is on the way. Thank you, Attorney General Letitia James, for showing people otherwise.”

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Attorney General James distributes free meals at 46 Mott Bakery with Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou, District Leader Jenny Low, community leaders, and volunteers.

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Attorney General James visits the Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory with State Senator Brian Kavanagh, Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou, and District Leader Jenny Low.