Did you catch Andrew Yang on the Lower East Side last week, touring the Essex Street Market, checking in at The Pickle Guys or hanging out at Frank’s Bike Shop on Grand Street? The New Yorker dubbed it part of a “social-media authenticity blitz” after the newly announced mayoral candidate was “stung by bodega-gate.”
Yang did not grow up in the city, but has lived here for 25 years. He’s now fending off criticism for referring to a place called 7 Brothers Famous Deli in Hell’s Kitchen (his own neighborhood) as a bodega, failing to vote in most mayoral elections and relocating to his home in the Hudson Valley during the pandemic.
New York City politics is a rough game. But as Gothamist pointed out, there’s also a question of fairness in the criticism of Yang as a “real New Yorker:”
…some, including Yang, recognized that questions of authenticity are often fraught for Asian Americans, who, no matter their origins, have difficulty shedding a perception of foreignness. “I do think that there’s something a little bit uncomfortable about questioning the New York-ness of someone who has literally lived in the city for 25 years, whose kids go to school here, who graduated from school here,” Yang said. “I mean, I’ve been here for decades. And so that is kind of strange, honestly… I do think that there is something familiar to many Asian Americans to have our belongingness questioned, and that did occur to me.”
Yang (with 1.9 million Twitter followers) and strong name recognition is an immediate front-runner. New York’s rapidly growing Asian population (now 1.3 million strong) will give him a powerful base of support. But as Gothamist noted, he will have to prove himself to all voters, especially progressive Asian American activists who will be scrutinizing his policy positions.
Yang seems to understand the importance of reaching out to other NYC voting blocs. The other day, he authored an op-ed in The Forward that was titled, “My vision for New York’s Jewish community.” Here’s part of what he had to say:
I was on the Lower East Side on Sunday with my wife, Evelyn, for a small-business tour. In my 25 years in the city, I’ve visited the neighborhood countless times for any number of reasons: to eat at Russ & Daughters or Congee Village with friends, visit the Tenement Museum or ride my bike before linking up with the Manhattan Bridge. But on Sunday, while meeting with business owners, workers and customers, I reflected more deeply on the Lower East Side as the locus of the rise of the Jewish community in New York. The neighborhood has changed dramatically since Jewish immigrants began moving there in large numbers in the 19th century. More recently, South Asians and Latinos have called the Lower East Side home, and the tenements have been retrofitted as gallery spaces and clubs or given way to high rises. But the working-class spirit brought to the Lower East Side by its early Jewish occupants, and the corresponding desire to live the American Dream, continues to animate the community.
You can read the full article here.