The Forgotten Resident of Lower Manhattan

Residents from Chinatown and the Lower East Side held a rally on June 5th in Foley Square, protesting the city and federal government’s response to 9-11. They carried placards reading, “Rebuild NYC, Rebuild Our Lives” and “Health Care NOT Toxic Air.”

The chants—in both English and Chinese—singled out the Federal Emergency Management Administration (“F-E-M-A, Fema’s got to pay!”) and the Red Cross (“Red Cross, double cross!”), along with predictable targets like New York Governor George Pataki, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The agencies and politicians were accused of ignoring the plight of Chinatown and other downtown neighborhoods—the chronic health conditions caused by the toxic fumes at Ground Zero, the resulting economic devastation. “You can’t rebuild buildings without first thinking about the people,” said one speaker, whose words were then translated into Chinese. “You will not ignore us anymore!”

The demonstration didn’t draw a huge crowd (four or five hundred people, tops), but did raise a number of questions. Have the poor neighborhoods of lower Manhattan been ignored in favor of the Wall Street corporations and affluent residents of Tribeca? (Remember when the Red Cross was literally handing out money down there?)

How widespread are WTC-related health problems? Many of those affected in Chinatown are presumably undocumented aliens. What are their legal rights?

“Are you ready to go to Albany?” asked one speaker. “Are you ready to march on Washington? This is just the beginning.” If true, yesterday’s modest rally may have marked a new phase in the rebuilding process.

Categories: Cities

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