Detailing Danny Chen’s Last Days, Demanding Justice

Liz OuYang of OCA-NY addressed a packed press conference, flanked by Private Danny Chen's father (wearing a hat) and mother (in a white sweater). Chen's parents addressed the crowd through a translator as well.

Since Private Danny Chen died in Afghanistan in October, his loved ones have struggled to learn  the events leading up to his death. Yesterday, thanks to tireless advocacy by his family and activists in the Chinese-American community, the U.S. Army finally provided some answers.

“Over two months, this family has learned by dribs and drabs what happened to their son,” said Liz OuYang, the president of the Organization of Chinese Americans New York chapter, told a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd of journalists at a Chinatown press conference this afternoon. OCA-New York has led the fight for justice in Chen’s death. “It takes a volunteer civil rights organization, plus many other organizations, plus the family, plus the press, to demand the truth and make the system work.”

After a Dec. 15 march in Chinatown involving 36 community groups, 10,000 viewings of a video about Chen, 5,000 petition signatures and other efforts including demands from local elected officials, Army leaders invited the family to Fort Hamilton yesterday, where they finally coughed up details of the 19-year-old private’s time serving in Afghanistan. OuYang painted a grim picture of their revelations, which have led military investigators to charge eight of his fellow soldiers in his Oct. 3 death by self-inflicted gunshot.

Immediately after arriving in August, she said, Chen was subjected to “excessive exercises” which “quickly crossed over into abuse,” the family was told. Over the course of six weeks, he was made to do push-ups and sit-ups under extreme conditions, such as holding mouthfuls of water, as well as crawling over gravel carrying full loads of gear. He was subjected to racial slurs including “Chink” and “Dragon Lady.” While his platoon was constructing a new tent, Chen was ridiculed and ordered to issue commands in Chinese, even though no one else present spoke his native language.

It’s Time to TreeCycle! Mulchfest This Weekend

This weekend is your chance to dispose of that pine tree dropping needles all over your apartment, and turn it into mulch that helps plants in our public parks. (See adorable video here.)

The city’s parks department is hosting its annual Mulchfest from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Click through for the details.

LES Bites: Brooklyn Taco, CULTUREfix, New Eats on the Bowery

Gothamist says Brooklyn Taco's tacos are better than California's. Photo by Cynthia Lamb.

There’s lots of restaurant news this week:

  • Brooklyn Taco in the Essex Street Market rates as “amazing” in a rave review. (Gothamist)
  • Chef Damon Cohen of wd~50 cooks at CULTUREfix on Jan. 10. (GrubStreet)
  • A preview of EMM Group’s plans for a Latin/Asian restaurant at 199 Bowery, up for discussion at Monday night’s CB3 SLA Committee. (Eater)
  • The “hotly anticipated” Bowery Diner is rumored to be opening Jan. 15. (Eater)

Patti Smith Brings Her Poetry and Prose to St. Mark’s Bookshop

Patti Smith

Surrounded by books at St. Mark’s Bookshop Tuesday night, Patti Smith confessed to a standing-room only crowd that she stole books when she was too poor to afford them.

Fresh off her customary New Year’s show at the Bowery Ballroom run that turns out to be her last after 14 years, the singer and writer shared stories of youthful exploits like pinching books, waiting outside Max’s Kansas City to catch glimpses of downtown royalty Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgwick and sneaking into the Lower East Side of the ’60s for late-night parties, where she collected material for her songs.

Yet, despite the alluring rock ‘n’ roll surroundings of a then-derelict downtown, Smith became more interested in retreating into the poetic worlds of Arthur Rimbaud, William Burroughs and New Directions, the publisher who so many years later would print her own writing.

“If you live long enough, your dreams will come true,” Smith quipped to the crowd gathered to hear her literary locutions. Indeed, her tales of eating Joan of Arc kidney beans from the can on MacDougal Street across from the Gaslight and wandering around Lower Manhattan drinking Pernod in a poverty-fueled daze were testament to how far Smith has come.

Morning Reads: Robbery Arrest, Dexter Sinister, Ukraine Christmas

  • An arrest has been made in a string of LES and East Village robberies, but the prime suspect remains at large. (Local EV)
  • Dexter Sinister, an appointment-only workshop and bookstore at 38 Ludlow, gets a little love from designer Matt Singer. (Racked)
  • Christmas is still coming in the East Village’s Little Ukraine. (Local EV)
  • Proprietors of 10 locally owned shops and restaurants are celebrated in artful sketches. (They Draw and Travel)
  • Celeb spotting: Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes spent their New Year’s holiday on the LES. (SheKnows)

Good Morning!

East River Park. Photo by Phillip Kalantzis-Cope.

This morning, we may see some flurries, but the rest of the day will be mostly sunny, with highs in the lower 40s. The warming trend continues as the week comes to a close.