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NYC celebrates Asian-American heritage

Updated: 2015-05-06 11:34
By AMY HE in New York (China Daily USA)

The New York City Comptroller's office honored four community leaders on Tuesday for their contributions to the local Asian-American community in the city, in celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

Wellington Chen, executive director at the Chinatown Partnership Local Development Corporation, was honored alongside Ron Kim, New York State Assembly member, Theres Rodriguez, CEO of Apicha Community Health Center, and Maf Misbah Uddin, treasurer of District Council 37.

"Asian American and Pacific Islanders make up an important part of the multi-ethnic fabric of New York City,"Scott Stringer, New York City comptroller, told China Daily prior to the celebration Tuesday evening.

"Asian Americans have built up our neighborhoods and have become a powerful force in our city life,"he added.

Chen was recognized for his work at Chinatown Partnership, a non-profit organization that works with the Chinatown Business Improvement District to help keep the neighborhood clean so that people are encouraged to visit and contribute to the local economy. Chen has been working with the local Chinese-American community for 40 years, since he was a student in the 1970s.

"It's always an honor and a privilege to be recognized. The Chinatown Partnership is not just one individual, so it's recognition of what we have done,"Chen said.

Chen said that it's important for the city to recognize Asian-American community leaders because the Asian-American community's stories are still unknown to the mainstream public.

"Many years ago, the New York Times Magazine had an article about an Asian-American kid looking for an Asian-American hero and role model, but he couldn't find any. The only role model he could find was Bruce Lee, who was already dead,"he said. "I think that's a recognition of the fact of how much of our story is not told. So any time any Asian American is recognized, our stories are being revealed bit by bit. It will be helpful to the generations.”

Chen has been executive director at the Chinatown Partnership since 2006, and prior to that was a consultant of the Planning Advocacy Group and a commissioner at the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals.

"I understand in life that you're meant to do certain things. This is meant to be my role. I specialize in this area, I have been invested, I have received countless training, I've been in the trenches, I've done sidewalk surveys, I've measured traffic, I've measured car turns,"he said.

"All of that contributed to what I am today, so I am a well-seasoned veteran of this campaign. I know how steep this hill is, still, and that's why I keep on wanting to come back to that hill,"he said.

This is the comptroller's second annual Asian American Heritage Month celebration since taking office in 2014. Stringer said that his office has tried to engage with the ethnic community by appointing the city's first chief diversity officer to boost participation from minority- and women-owned businesses that want to do business with the city.


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