Asian communities irked over mayoral candidates’ snub

Christine Quinn was a no-show. So were Bill Thompson and John Catsimatidis. Sal Albanese, Bill de Blasio, and Erick Salgado were at the forum, and so was John Liu, but he came 30 minutes late.

Welcome to the Mayoral Candidates Forum organized by a coalition of about 50 Asian American organizations where the empty seats at the auditorium quickly became the news more than why the candidates wanted to head America’s biggest city.

The forum, “Growing Numbers, Growing Impact: Mayoral Candidates Forum on Asian Pacific Americans.” was held at the LaGuardia Community College on May 20.

“Many groups/organizations from the Asian Pacific American community put a great deal of effort into organizing an informative event for the community members to hear from various mayoral candidates of their plans on how they will improve New York City,” said Linda Lee, executive director of the Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York, Inc. “However, last night, our community members were robbed of the opportunity to have their voices and concerns heard.”

Likewise disappointed with the dismal turnout was Luna Ranjit, executive director of Adhikaar.

“We are disappointed that many of the candidates who confirmed did not show up,” she said. “If our Nepali-speaking members can take time out after a long day of work, why can’t the front runner candidates make it a priority to come talk to them and ask for their votes?”

Ryan Natividad, a Filipino American community organizer, voiced his dismay.

“Too bad, John Catsimatidis didn’t show up,” he said. “He would’ve been the only Republican candidate to show up in a non-partisan event, and I would’ve respected him for that. As it stands, he’s a typical, craven Republican, doing only what suits him or is advantageous on his terms.”
As for Quinn, he said “she has a habit of ignoring communities.”

Although Liu was present, Natividad thought he appeared cocky by being tardy and not following protocol. “He’s so full of himself that he’s already taking the APA community for granted,” he said.

In a statement, the organizers said all the candidates committed to attending the forum. However, on the morning of May 20, Quinn and Thompson notified them they would not be able to attend because of a rally or a prior appointment. Quinn was at a hastily-called rally honoring Mark Carson, the latest victim of hate crime attacks. Catsimatidis confirmed but did not attend without explaining his absence.

The lack of attendance by these candidates “says a lot of their lack of commitment to the Asian Pacific American community,” said Nyasha Griffith, deputy director of the Arab-American Family Support Center. “This is particularly disappointing in light of the fact that our community is typically undeserved and under-recognized.”

The Asian Pacific American population is the fastest growing over the last 10 years, and that “our votes and voices need to be taken seriously,” said Lee. The community makes up nearly 14 percent of the population with 1.3 million New Yorkers throughout all five boroughs. “Anyone who ignores this population does it at his or her own peril,” said Joyce Moy, executive director of the Asian American/Asian Research Institute at City University of New York.

Warned Lois Lee, director of the Chinese-American Planning Council: “I heard many audience members say that they will not vote for anyone who will not prioritize our needs.”

The four candidates who spoke at the forum hailed the Asian community for contributing to the city’s growth and enrichment.

“Asian Pacific Americans are an integral part of the fabric of the city,” said candidate and former council member Sal Albanese.

Echoed Public Advocate Bill de Blasio: “Asian Pacific Americans are a growing and critical piece of New York City’s fabric.”

Erick Salgado, whose parents are Puerto Rican- born, said he is honored to participate in the forum. “As a part of a minority group myself, I understand how important it is to have all communities well represented in our government.”

City Comptroller John Liu, the son of Chinese immigrants, clearly felt comfortable being in a so-called ‘hometown’ audience. He said the participation of this year’s major democratic candidates for mayor is a “testament to the sheer growth and the potential of the NYC APIA community’s political relevance and influence.”

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