Lee Blasts Velazquez & City For Ignoring Asian-American Community in NYC

By Kings County Politics

Yungman Lee, the Democratic challenger to Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez in the upcoming June Congressional Primary, this week, blasted the incumbent for sitting on her hands in coordinating with Chinese community based organizations badly-needed social services in Brooklyn’s Asian-American community.

Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez

Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez

Lee’s salvo came after Velazquez lauded the Mayor’s ThriveNYC program last week for awarding 14 community based organizations $30 million in public/private funding for non-clinical mental health support to clients in three target populations: expectant parents and/or parents of children up to the age of four; out of school and out of work young adults ages 16 to 24; and/or unemployed or underemployed adults ages 18 and over.

No Asian-American CBOs received funding and a City spokesperson confirmed that none of the 14 CBOs that did receive money included in their proposals any plans to service Asian-American communities.

In a tragic twist this week a 24-year old Asian Sunset Park mother was charged with murder after allegedly drowning her 2-year-old daughter – a possible mental health incident that ThriveNYC was created to counter.

Yungman Lee

Yungman Lee

“Government has again let New York’s Asian-American communities down. It’s insulting that this large and increasingly organized segment of ou​r city was so actively overlooked. And it’s particularly galling that Ms. Velazquez not only didn’t deliver for the Chinese-American communities she represents​, but then thought it appropriate​, in a press release, ​to praise the ​list of awards that neglected so many​.” said Michael Tobman, Communications Director, Yungman Lee for Congress​.

De Blasio Spokesperson Elizabeth DeBold said while no Asian-American CBOs were chosen it is important to remember that ThriveNYC, which is a subsidy of the Mayor’s Connections to Care initiative, is in the study phase.

“We are implementing this program through a limited number of organizations serving specific populations in order to determine its effectiveness in improving the mental health and social services outcomes of participants. Our goal is to expand Connections to Care across the city and possibly nationwide after the five-year study is completed,” said DeBold.

“While the selected organizations will not be conducting any specific outreach to the Chinese-American community in Brooklyn per their RFPs (Requests for Proposals), it is very possible that some will serve Chinese New Yorkers in their geographic area. Furthermore, in any future expansion of the program, Connections to Care will aim to provide culturally competent mental health care to all of our city’s diverse populations,” she added.

DeBold said The Mayor’s Fund To Advance New York City, a public/private agency which the mayor’s wife Chirlane McCray heads, was charged with picking the CBOs chosen and the organization conducted extensive outreach across the city about the funding opportunity, including working through the city’s community-based organization networks and city agency partners.

“We also distributed the RFP to the thousands of organizations with a health and human services contact serving Connections to Care’s target populations in New York City,” she said.

The Brooklyn Chinese-American Association, Sunset Park’s largest community based organization did not return inquiries as to whether they submitted or knew about the RFPs or the ThriveNYC program.

But Warren Chan, executive director of the smaller Asian Community United Society in Bensonhurst, said he never heard anything about ThriveNYC, let alone that they were seeking RFPs. He put the blame squarely on the fact that Brooklyn’s bursting-at-the-seams Chinese population has no Chinese-American elected legislators, putting the entire community at a huge political disadvantage.

“This is very upsetting to the Chinese community as a whole, because during the campaign season all the elected officials that represent the Chinese community claim to further bring social services back to their district.  This is something they failed to do and they totally forget what they promised,” said Chan.

A Velazquez spokesperson responded that the Congresswoman has long recognized the importance of mental health services in all of New York City, including the Asian-American communities she represents which includes both Sunset Park and Lower Manhattan’s Chinatown.

“That’s why, for instance, over eight years she helped secure $32 million in federal funds for the Charles B. Wang Health Center in Chinatown and has been instrumental in securing funding for Lutheran Health, which provides culturally appropriate health and mental health services to Sunset Park’s Asian community,” said the spokesperson.

Another Velazquez spokesperson also pointed out that Lutheran Medical Services, which provides mental health services and serves Asian Americans from the Sunset Park community and Brooklyn received funding from ThriveNYC.

Lutheran serves 12,400 Chinese-speaking patients and that does not include Asian Americans who are English speaking, the spokesperson said.