Supporters of Displaced Tenants Rally in Front of Wyndham Garden

protestRoni Jacobson

Supporters of tenants displaced by the construction of the Wyndham Garden rallied in front of the hotel at 93 Bowery today to demand compensation.

“It’s been over three years and we want this resolved,” said Peter Gee, director of housing at Asian Americans for Equality, which organized the rally to call attention to the plight of the former residents of 128 Hester Street. “The owner continues to make a profit and the tenants have not been given one penny.”

Approximately 30 people attended the protest, holding signs reading phrases like “Responsible Development” and “Shame on You, William Su,” while protest chants in English and Chinese played from a loudspeaker.

As The Local reported yesterday, a tenement at 128 Hester Street was demolished in 2009 due to structural damages resulting from the construction of the hotel. The New York Division of Homes and Community Renewal ordered building owner William Su to reimburse his former tenants for their losses. The agency has since decided to reconsider its initial judgment and Mr. Su has not produced any compensation.

protest 2Roni Jacobson Xin Shu Zheng

Xin Shu Zheng was the only resident able to attend the rally; the rest of the participants were concerned community members. Before the building was demolished, Mr. Zheng, who now lives in Flushing, Queens, had lived at 128 Hester Street since 1989. Speaking through a translator, he told The Local that he misses his relatives and the language access in Chinatown. “It feels like my hometown here,” he said. “I think the landlord looks down on us because we are poor.”

“Give me justice,” he added.

protest 3Roni Jacobson

“We welcome new neighbors but we want to ensure that people who have lived here for decades get to stay in the community they built,” said K Webster, a community organizer and long-time Lower East Side resident who attended the rally. “I suspect that [the hotel owners] have the financial reserves to do right by people.”

Tom Downing, manager of the Wyndham Garden, said that the protest had not affected the hotel’s business. He had no opinion on the tenant’s goals. “This predates me,” he said.

A chef at the hotel who stopped to take a picture of the protesters said, “They should go after the landlords, not us.”

The rally wrapped up after about an hour. “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” the protesters shouted before they disbanded. “We’ll be back!  We’ll be back!”