A Chinatown community banker is taking on U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez in next year’s Democratic Primary. Yesterday in a banquet hall alongside the Manhattan Bridge, 63-year-old Yungman Lee announced his candidacy for the 7th Congressional District, which includes sections of the Lower East Side and Chinatown, as well as neighborhoods throughout Queens and Brooklyn.
Lee is a a known quantity in Chinatown. Since 2008, he has been president and CEO of Global Bank, an institution at 30 East Broadway. Previously, he was a New York State deputy superintendent of banks and was a member of the New York City Tax Commission in the 1990s. Lee attended Columbia University and NYU Law School. He’s worked for large firms as well as independently as a community-based lawyer in Chinatown.
In remarks before a large group of supporters, Lee called 12-term Congresswoman Velazquez “tired” and “out of touch.” Lee said he believes people are sick of non-productive career politicians. While acknowledging that he has never run for elected office, Lee said, “Of course I am qualified, precisely because I’m not a politician.” He emphasized his immigrant roots, said he’s achieved the American dream and wants to make sure other immigrants can do the same. Grace Meng became the first Asian member of the New York Congressional delegation in 2012. Lee noted that Asian Americans are “woefully underrepresented” in Washington.
Rep. Velazquez did not have much to say about her challenger when contacted by The Lo-Down yesterday, noting only, “This is America and anyone can run.”
In the past, City Council member Margaret Chin has been important in Velazquez’s get-out-the-vote efforts in Chinatown. Chin is the first Chinese American to represent the neighborhood at City Hall. Lee’s campaign complicates the equation for her in next year’s primary. A spokesperson for the Council member said she has supported Velazquez in the past “and she continues to support her.” Formal endorsements, of course, are a different matter. Those will likely not come for several months.