After seven weeks of participation in Chinatown Urban Institute, I gained many invaluable experiences and met amazing people from my program, CCDC, and other organizations. Throughout the program, I gained more insight on Urban Planning and learned the importance of preserving the Chinatown community. Although I am still not fond with the lack of economic power and cleanliness in this community, my perception toward Chinatown started to change slowly throughout the program; I respect the culture, history, and the cheap food. I started to realize the political significance here for Chinese Americans, it’s a form of self-independence from gentrification and westernization. Historic preservation played such important role in not only fighting against gentrification, but also protecting the local community from displacement. Such preservation can save home values and tax revenues and therefore protecting the low-income population to sustain life within Chinatown. From Community Tenant association and other organizations, I could fell the strong sense of community in this seemly dying neighborhood. Out of my surprise, the residents here care about politics just as much as rest of us do, and many of them are registered to vote for their interests. There are many complex issues within this small community that need to be fixed, and it is clearly not just on clean street and poverty. Generational poverty, rapidly aging population, and store vacancies are some of the biggest issues that are happening in Chinatown.
I enjoyed the City Hall visit during the fourth week of the program. I was fortunate enough to meet the legislative aids for the broad of supervisors and listen to their initiatives on affordable housing and the day-to-day life at the office. I also spent some time listening to the public hearing for district one, it gave me a better understanding on the public hearing procedure. Many representatives from Union Square presented to support the District one initiatives.
Me, Sarah, Sam, Tianlan, and Shania joined the environmental justice group for our final project. With the previous lectures and readings and with Erika and Deland’s guidance, we apply what we learned into our survey questions. how to approach people more effectively to set up interview. From our interview we concluded that residents here putting lot of focus on food, health and education for their children. Their concerns are not on the environmental surroundings but mainly on the physical ones. From our survey we discovered that homelessness and crimes where been mentioned the most, especially relevant toward senior residents. With our presentation, I hope CCDC can putting more focus on sustainable development with the new motto we suggested.
There are several questions I would like to address in the end of the program. In terms of community planning, I would like to know more about CCDC’s future initiatives on health and education development. I am also interested to know if the organization will advocate for more trash bins in the populated areas such as Waverly and Stockton street, and ash trays, and more green space in the Alleyway. My opinions might be slightly different than CCDC’s objectives, but I think CCDC should be a medium for a healthy relationship between landlords and tenants in the community. I understand the organization’s focus is on SRO tenants and low-income family, but without a proper understanding between the property owner and the tenants, it is hard to push for more desirable affordable housing within the community. We understood the struggle which tenants been through, so what about the landowner? What are their opinions on such issues? I heard some of the landlords are only charging very minimum amount of rents for tenants in SROs, especially for seniors. I think instead of labeling landlords as the “bad guys”, we should also get perspectives from them and see what their concerns and suggestions about this community. For the safety of the community, would CCDC be able to throw pressure on government to send more police force for the public safety in Chinatown? There are many seniors living in the community, they could be easy target for criminals if without proper securities.
Chinatown Urban Institute pushed my interest in working in public sector even further. One important lesson my family has taught me is to give back to the people in need, when you have the knowledge and experience. This life lesson guided me to the direction of becoming an inspired lawyer. It is my goal to become a real estate and environmental lawyer and working in the public sector. I would like to devote myself in pubic interest and apply the knowledge and experience to support low-income family’s needs and small corporations on healthier, and more sustainable development. I also would like to apply the knowledge I learned from Urban Institute to protect and support those ignored and isolated groups.
Eric Y. Lu