Chinatown Residents Complain Injustice
From The World Journal
August 16th, 2003

All New Yorkers felt the inconvenience during the “Great New York Blackout of 2003.” Already having suffered heavy losses from September 11 two years ago, Chinatown is again hard hit because it only got electricity back at 10 p.m. on Friday. During the black out, Chinatown had no ‘vitality’ to speak of—all activities were stopped.

Chinatown, including the East Broadway area, was still in the dark after Friday night fell onto the city. Phenomena such as this make people suspect whether ‘Chinatown’ is New York City’s ‘disfavored’ neighborhood.

After going through Thursday’s power failure, New York City’s Chinatown was a survivor of disaster on Friday. As it waited bitterly for the whole day to have electricity back, food, clothing, shelter, and transportation—all walks of life came to a halt.

From usually crowded Canal Street to restaurant-filled Mott Street, the Chinatown area on Friday was like a ghost town. Big or small, stores were closed one after another. Summer classes provided by the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association of New York were also forced to suspend.

On the streets, besides a few ‘disappointed’ tourists, the rest were Chinatown residents escaping from ‘hot and suffocating indoor air’ to relax in cool outdoor places. Some residents even moved their card tables out to the sidewalk to play, and adding to their existence were the trash and stench filled streets.

Standing at a street corner, all that came into view were closely locked stores. Once in a while one could see some industrious storeowners providing foods that could be made without electricity to passersby and other residents.

Chinatown's high-level residences such as Confucius Plaza, Chatham Green, and Chatham Tower were even cut off from water supply during the black out. This situation may be well said as ‘snow plus frost’—one disaster after another. Under ‘no water and no electricity’ circumstances, not only was cooking food impossible, but taking a shower and going to the bathroom also became problems. Residents in these buildings had to depend on labor to lift water up stairs to keep bathrooms clean.

Looking over Chinatown neighborhood phenomenon after power failure makes one feel bad. To avoid heat indoors, many residents, especially seniors, were forced to sit in front of apartment houses or to seek out cool places at the park to rest because of their small residence or bad ventilation.

Quite a lot of residents felt angry that power restoration in the Chinatown area came so late. From radio news or word of mouth, residents heard that New York City’s various neighborhoods were gradually getting electricity back. Many neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn even got electricity restored on Friday morning, allowing residents to return to their normal lives.

Chinatown residents couldn’t understand why Chinatown has always been placed on the ‘second-priority’ name list. At the time when residents in other neighborhoods have already been living normal lives, Chinatown residents still have to live in darkness.

The City government and Con Edison did not give an explanation to the sequence of power restoration in different neighborhoods during the rush-repair.

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Translated from Chinese by Michael Huang

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