Chinatown is currently in the midst of a deadly epidemic. Not an epidemic of any disease, mind you, but an epidemic of fear, misinformation and prejudice.
In the past month, small businesses in Chinatown have seen a precipitous drop in revenue due to coronavirus-related paranoia. This is all in spite of the fact that there has yet to be a single recorded case of the coronavirus reaching New York City.
Yesterday, electeds and community leaders gathered to launch “Show Some Love for Chinatown” campaign, a public awareness campaign to encourage the patronage of Chinatown’s small businesses.
The announcement took place yesterday at noon, in front of the Chinatown Information Kiosk. Council Members Margaret Chin (D-Battery Park City, Chinatown) and Carlina Rivera (D-East Village, Gramercy Park) joined representatives from Chinatown Partnership, along with several Chinatown small business owners.
According to Chinatown Partnership Executive Director Wellington Chen, the drop in business activity across Chinatown has been staggering. Citing data from NYC SBS Commissioner Gregg Bishop, Chen claimed that some businesses have seen 40 to 80 percent drops in sales since the outbreak.
“Last night at Amazing 66, the banquet hall, the dining room was practically empty,” said Chen. “And it’s affected Little Italy as well. This is not good.”
Chi Vy Ngo, general manager of the Bo Ky Restaurant on Bayard Street, can personally vouch for Chen’s claims. This month, Ngo’s profits have seen a 60 to 70 percent drop compared to the previous month.
“My business is a mom and pop shop, so this has affected me personally,” said Ngo.
Ngo went on to say that he hasn’t been forced to cut his employees’ pay or lay them off. However, he expressed uncertainty about the future, claiming that it was “hard to tell” how the drop will affect his restaurant in the long run.
The purpose of the campaign, said Rivera, is to save businesses like Ngo from foundering. In her words, the fear preventing New Yorkers from shopping in Chinatown and other Asian communities is completely unfounded.
“This new campaign will shine a light on our one-of-a-kind small businesses here in Chinatown, many of whom have obviously been dealing with challenges since the outbreak of coronavirus,” said Rivera. “But as chair of the Council’s Hospitals Committee, let me be clear; there have been no cases of coronavirus in New York City. The fear and the prejudice have to stop today.”
Margaret Chin pointed out that, aside from combating the tide of prejudice, there’s another compelling reason to shop in Chinatown; the neighborhood still has a lot to offer.
“This campaign is an opportunity for our neighbors to come down and support us, and really discover the best of Chinatown,” said Chin. “You can get all kinds of delicious food. You can also get the best price on jewelry items, especially for Valentine’s Day!”
Aside the general awareness campaign, Chinatown Partnership is also hosting a Valentine’s Day-themed raffle. Those who wish to participate need only to present a receipt they received for a meal or object they bought in Chinatown.