Bill to Name Doyers Street Post Office For Mabel Lee Approved by U.S. House

mabel lee

In November, we told you about an effort to name the U.S. Post office at 6 Doyers St. in Chinatown for suffragette Mabel Lee. Legislation just passed the House of Representatives this week. It now heads to the Senate.

U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez, who authored the measure, said in a statement, “I’m proud my colleagues have approved my bill that would honor Mabel Lee’s legacy… (She) was a steadfast advocate for women’s rights and for the greater Asian American community. Her hard work and activism empowered many, bringing more Chinese-American women into the electoral process and helping them to secure voting rights.”

Lee, who died in 1966, was the first Chinese woman to receive a Ph.D. from Columbia University. After the sudden death of her father, she became the leader of the American Baptist Home Mission Society. She also led the First Chinese Baptist Church at 21 Pell St. Lee participated in the Women’s Political Equality League and organized a group of Chinese American women to March in a key 1917 pro-suffrage parade. Lee created classes for Chinatown’s residents in carpentry, typewriting and other skills.


Velazquez Touts Renewal of Hurricane Sandy Disaster Loan Program

Rep. Nydia Velazquez and SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet joined AAFE staff and business owners yesterday.

Rep. Nydia Velazquez and SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet joined AAFE staff and business owners yesterday.

U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez and Maria Contreras-Sweet, administrator of the Small Business Administration, were in the neighborhood yesterday to talk up the rejuvenation of a Hurricane Sandy emergency loan program.

That’s right, three years after the big storm there’s a new push to aid businesses and homeowners who became frustrated in the aftermath of Sandy and never processed their applications. In an event at the headquarters of Asian Americans for Equality on Allen Street, they publicized the program, which was brought back to life late last year.

The SBA stopped taking applications in 2013. A report by the Government Accountability Office found that it took the feds as long as 45 days to approve or deny emergency loans. Legislation authored by Velazquez and enacted in November renewed the program. $3.4 million has been loaned in New York City since December.

At yesterday’s press event, the officials highlighted the case of Chinatown businessman Peter Li of  “47 Division Street Trading, Inc.” In the aftermath of Sandy, the poultry and meat supplier suffered losses of about $500,000. While AAFE’s Renaissance Economic Development Corp. provided a small emergency loan to the business, the SBA loan wasn’t processed for six months. On average, the government is now pushing through loans in eight days.

There was plenty of praise to go around yesterday for Velazquez and for AAFE. The SBA administrator presented AAFE with an award in recognition of the local non-profit’s longstanding partnership with the SBA.

You can learn more about the SBA Disaster Loan Program here.  Residents can receive up to $200,000 to repair physical damage — and $40,000 to replace personal belongings. Businesses and non-profits are eligible for up to $2 million.

Chinatown Banker Yungman Lee Challenges U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez

yungman lee 3

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.

Yungman Lee's supporters posed for photos before his arrival yesterday.

Yungman Lee’s supporters posed for photos before his arrival yesterday.


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Velazquez Introduces Hurricane Assistance Legislation

Rep. Nydia Velazquez with housing advocates on City Hall steps.

Rep. Nydia Velazquez with housing advocates on City Hall steps.

Today U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez introduced legislation aimed at making public housing agencies more responsive in future natural disasters. The Post Superstorm Sandy bills were announced during a news conference on the steps of City Hall. Housing advocates and City Council members Margaret Chin and Rosie Mendez joined the Congresswoman.

Velazquez Demands NYCHA Release “Negative” Report

U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez is requesting NYCHA publish a report that highlights its flaws.

After City Council member Rosie Mendez spent Tuesday afternoon defending the New York City Housing Authority from recent negative press, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez is calling for the release of a report that could bring more critical scrutiny to the authority.

In a letter she sent to NYCHA Chairman John Rhea this morning and then circulated to press, Velazquez requested that a report by the Boston Consulting Group on NYCHA operations be made public. The authority commissioned the report at a cost of $10 million, with the stated intention of using the findings to make better use of its limited funding. Velazquez, who represents much of the Lower East Side and Chinatown, asserted that the report could help inform city and even national housing policy, but is being withheld from public view because of embarrassing information it contains about NYCHA’s financial mismanagement.

Velazquez Easily Wins Primary Election

Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez with fellow elected officials at Good Companions Senior Center.

U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez fended off her first serious challenge in years last night, soundly defeating three rivals in the Democratic Primary.  With 97% of the vote counted, she has 58%  in the 7th Congressional District, which includes sections of the Lower East Side and Chinatown as well as a large swath of Brooklyn.  Brooklyn City Councilman Erik Dilan came in second with 31%.  Dan O’Connor had about 8%; George Martinez 2.7%.

Velazquez Campaigns at Lower East Side Senior Centers

Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez with fellow elected officials at Good Companions Senior Center.

A short time ago, U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez made a campaign stop at the Good Companions Senior Center on Madison Street, in a last minute Election Day appeal to voters.  She appeared alongside State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney and State Senator Daniel Squadron.

Velazquez is fending off challenges from three opponents — Erik Dilan, George Martinez and Dan O’Connor. Dilan is backed by Assemblyman Vito Lopez, Brooklyn’s controversial Democratic Party boss.  Velazquez is also visiting a senior center run by the the United Jewish Council of the East Side.

There are fears that turnout will be very low today, since voters are not accustomed to a late June primary.


Remember to Vote! It’s Primary Day in New York

Rep. Nydia Velazquez, challenger Erik Dilan. Image via NY1.

The New York Democratic Primary is taking place today. Here on the Lower East Side, the competitive race to watch is the 7th Congressional District contest in which longtime Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez is facing a spirited challenge from three opponents.  They are Erik Dilan (pictured), Dan O’Connor and George Martinez.

Rep. Velazquez Speaks Out Against East Broadway Bar

Velazquez at Primitive Christian Church on Sunday. Photo: WNYC.

U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez was on the Lower East Side yesterday, campaigning during the final weekend before Tuesday’s Democratic Primary.  In an appearnce at Primitive Christian Church on East Broadway, she injected herself into a hyperlocal issue: a proposed bar at 221 East Broadway.

The pastor at the church, Marc Rivera, is an outspoken critic of the bar, whose owners are trying to persuade Community Board 3 to support their liquor license application. About three dozen members showed up at a recent CB3 committee meeting to speak out against the bar. People on both sides of the issue (quite a few residents also support the proposal) are girding for a battle before the full board tomorrow evening.

7th District Congressional Race: Velazquez Picks Up “Pro-Israel” Endorsements, Hip Hop Challenger Profiled

Velazquez with Silver, Schumer, Nadler and Jewish leaders on Sunday. Photo by Marie Figueroa.

Here’s an update on the campaign in the 7th Congressional District, in which U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez is facing a rare challenge from three opponents. The Democratic Primary will be held June 26th; the newly constituted district includes sections of Queens, Brooklyn and the Lower East Side/Chinatown.

On Sunday, Velazquez picked up the endorsements of three political heavyweights: U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer,  Congressman Jerry Nadler and State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.  Although there was little specific talk about the issue, the endorsements were timed, in part, to blunt criticism that Velazquez is “anti-Israel.”

TLD Interview: U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez

U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez. Photo courtesy: AAFE.

Nydia Velazquez has represented the Lower East Side in Congress for the past 20 years.  But this spring, as she campaigns for the Democratic Primary to be held June 26th, Rep. Velazquez is getting to know quite a few new constituents. This is because her district has undergone some changes in the aftermath of redistricting, triggered by the 2010 Census.  The newly created 7th Congressional District now includes most of Grand Street on the LES, as well as a few more blocks in Chinatown.

Last week, we visited Velazquez in her district office on Avenue B to discuss the campaign (she’s facing three challengers), as well as key issues affecting the neighborhood.   We began with the Seward Park redevelopment project, which is currently winding its way through the approval process (Community Board 3 will vote on the land use application next month).   The city’s plan for the Seward Park site allows for 50% affordable housing for 60 years. 

Velazquez, Chin Visit Senior Center in Chinatown

U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez, City Council member Margaret Chin at the Open Door Senior Center.

U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez and City Council member Margaret Chin visited the Project Open Door Senior Center in Chinatown on Friday.  Velazquez faces a challenge from three opponents, including Brooklyn City Council member Erik Dilan and newcomer Dan O’Connor, in the (newly redrawn) 7th Congressional District Democratic Primary June 26.

Chin introduced Velazquez and served as translator during brief remarks in the center, located across the street from Columbus Park.  The Congresswoman praised Chin, calling “her one of the finest members of the City Council,” someone who is “using her intellect to empower Chinese Americans.”

Velazquez vowed to push for passage of comprehensive immigration reform, to stop proposed cuts to social programs and to finally approve a sweeping transportation bill.  Referring to a young Lower East Side resident, an Army enlistee,  who was found dead in Afghanistan after weeks of racially-tinged hazing, Velazquez declared, “we will not rest until we bring justice to the family of Private Danny Chen.”

What Redistricting Means For the Lower East Side

Lower East Side representatives at this year's Lunar New Year parade in Chinatown; Nydia Velazquez, Sheldon Silver, Margaret Chin, Daniel Squadron.

New York’s dysfunctional redistricting process came to an end several days ago, when a panel of federal judges ordered the state to implement new Congressional boundaries based on the 2010 Census.  The new lines are not dramatically different on the Lower East Side but there are some changes you’ll want to know about.

Currently, the neighborhood is represented in Washington by Carolyn Maloney (14th Congressional District) and Nydia Velazquez (12th Congressional District).   Since New York lost two seats, the districts have been renamed.  But more significantly, the boundaries have shifted.  Velazquez, for example, picks up most of the Grand Street Co-ops from Maloney,  a larger portion of the Two Bridges neighborhood and a few more blocks in Chinatown.  Pitt Street is the dividing line, meaning Velazquez (now representing the 7th Congressional District),  picks up all of the co-op buildings except Seward Park.

More Photos from the Chinese Lunar New Year Parade

Around five-thousand people marched through the streets of Chinatown yesterday in celebration of the Year of the Rabbit. It was a beautiful day for Manhattan’s Chinese Lunar New Year Parade. We walked with the lion dancers, marching bands and floats as they made their way down Mott Street. Lots of photos after the jump!