Lower East Side Voices: A Small Business Owner Staying Positive, Working Hard

You may have noticed a little restaurant, Factory Tamal, that opened on Essex Street not long ago. It’s run by Fernando Lopez, a Mexican immigrant who has worked his way up through New York City’s restaurant industry. As we continue our video series, Lower East Side Voices, Maritza Villela introduces us to Lopez, a small business owner whose answer to today’s raging immigration debate is to keep working hard. This series is a collaboration with CUNY Journalism School’s NY City News Service.

Lower East Side Voices: “The Land Belongs to All of Us”

We’re continuing our series today, Lower East Side Voices, in which we talk with local immigrants about their experiences in this country and about the Trump administration’s immigration policies. Yesterday we heard from a longtime Chinatown resident who agrees with the president’s “America First” agenda. Today we turn our attention to Amy Velez, who immigrated to this country 35 years ago from Colombia. The Lo-Down is working with the reporting team at CUNY Journalism School’s NY City News Service for this series. This piece was produced by Milana Vinn

Lower East Side Voices: The Freedom Swimmer

The Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration is dominating the national political discussion. Here on the Lower East Side, perhaps this country’s most famous neighborhood of immigrants, the new president’s policies are obviously a hot topic of conversation.

We asked the reporting team at CUNY Journalism School’s NY City News Service to fan out across the LES in search of perspectives on the immigration issue. In our Lower East Side Voices series this week, we’ll be featuring video interviews of immigrants in this community about their experiences in America and how they feel about the Trump agenda.

First up today is Chris Chung, a Chinatown resident who swam to Hong Kong in 1972, moved to the U.S. two years later and has never looked back. The story was produced by Mallory Moench.

La Contenta Owner Luis Arce Mota Talks About a “Day Without Immigrants”

Luis Arce Mota. Photo by Alex M. Smith, 2015.

Luis Arce Mota. Photo by Alex M. Smith, 2015.

Several Lower East Side restaurants participated in yesterday’s, “A Day Without Immigrants,” a protest of Donald Trump’s policies and vitriol. One local business that attracted a lot of national attention for its decision to close for the day was Norfolk Street’s La Contenta.

Co-owner Luis Arce-Mota talked to several news organizations about his decision to take part in the national boycott. A sign posted in the window of the restaurant read, “We stand 100% with our team.” Mota told the Associated Press, “Everyone in the restaurant is an immigrant, so we have a duty to close.”  He added, “Without them we are nothing.”

La Contenta opened two years ago at 102 Norfolk St. In an interview with The Lo-Down in 2015, Mota talked about his roots. Originally from Mazatlán, Mexico, he moved to this country in 1992. Mota, a longtime resident of the Seward Park Cooperative, is now an American citizen.

You can watch the AP interview below and, by all means, pay a visit to La Contenta if you haven’t already. It’s a great restaurant, one of our favorites in the neighborhood.