At the Chinatown Vigil for Homeless Men Murdered on the Bowery
It was a moment of silence, shame, then a call to action.
New York City could not sweep its homeless crisis under the rug Monday morning as a moment of silence at a vigil in Kimlau Square, Chinatown was deafening to those mourning the senseless murder of four homeless men by a 24-year-old attacker now in custody.
Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou (D-NY 65th District), organized the vigil at the bustling public square which is just around the corner from where 83-year-old Kwok Chuen, known as “Kok,” was bludgeoned to death while he slept in the doorway of 2 Bowery. The savage attack that left three other defenseless men dead and one critically injured, clearly shook the close-knit community.
Yuh-Line Niou, the Taiwanese-American who took over Sheldon Silver’s Assembly seat, lead the chorus of voices calling on the City, State, and Federal government to tackle the housing crisis and mental health issues.
“We need to work together – as a city and state – to create a model that focuses on compassionate and effective efforts that ends endless cycles of poverty, senseless violence, and homelessness.”
“Today, we stand here as neighbors asking for change,” Assembymember Yuh-Line said, holding back tears, before being overcome by emotion at the end of her plea for unity.
Then, other elected officials, community activists and housing advocates, joined her call to protect the City’s most venerable population.
“We have to remember who we’re fighting for. We’re fighting for the people who can’t fight for themselves.” Comptroller Scott Stringer said then pledged his office would urge the City for increases in funding , but acknowledging the fact that even though the City had doubled the funds it spent to combat homelessness over the last six years, the homeless population had doubled in that same time.
“Shame on us … Shame on us.” Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez (D-NY, 7th District) shouted for allowing the world’s richest city to create such dangerous city streets. “With our City facing a homelessness crisis, we need more investment from the state and city in programs that assist and keep safe the most vulnerable among us,” the Congresswoman added.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney also spoke to the need for increased funding from Washington. “It’s incredibly important that we all speak out against the horrific attacks that occurred this weekend, and recognize that we must do more as a city for the more than 60,000 New Yorkers experiencing homelessness.”
“We don’t have a homeless problem. We have a housing problem,” said Jason Walker of the homeless advocacy group Vocal NY.
After the vigil Yuh-Line Niou spent time speaking to her homeless constituents who attended, and created an impromptu memorial composed of candles, notes, and tokens of life on the street. She listened as homeless men explained their own ideas on how to raise money for affordable homes and welcoming shelters.
Pizza was delivered to the ever-expanding shrine by Hakki, owner of Champion Pizza, who also left a hand-written letter explaining how he wished he could have helped sooner. “May you always rest in peace my dear brothers,” he wrote at the end, alongside his personal number.
A heartbroken, local resident who recently spoke to Kwok “Kok” Chen, said that he was a “polite and humble man.” She had also brought him food and along with the help of a neighbor, directed the 83-year-old man to the Bowery Mission with a note in English for a request for assistance.
Mayor Bill de Blasio released a statement Monday morning promising that the City would allocate more funding for housing ‘dedicate more resources to prevent similar tragedies in the future.
As previously reported, the city’s homeless population finds safety in numbers, the encampments along sidwalks sheds often referred to as a scourge on the neighborhood are in part a defense against robbery and these types of vicious attacks.