On February 17th, 2021, Susan Lee, a candidate for City Council District 1 was assaulted while exiting the train platform at the World Trade Center Oculus Station. The assailant approached Lee and proceeded to push her down a flight of stairs. Lee was able to escape the incident with a sprained ankle by grasping onto a subway handrail. On February 27th, Lee filed a police report at the urging of her family and colleagues.
Lee, an immigrant from Hong Kong, moved to New York as a six-year-old with her family in search of fulfilling the ‘American Dream’. Growing up on the Lower East Side, a working-class neighborhood that has been the root of powerful political movements for decades, Lee believes in redefining policing, fixing the education gaps within New York City and providing long-term solutions for affordable housing.
“Running for office in the era of COVID-19 isn’t easy. However, what I was not prepared for was the danger and harassment I experience every day on the campaign trail,” said Lee. “Since the beginning of 2021, in NYC, 23 anti-Asian hate crimes have been reported, compared to 29 during all of 2020. Campaigning during a pandemic is difficult, but to add the fear of injury or worse because of the way I look was something I never contemplated or considered.”
Continues Lee, “I am lucky I was able to walk away from this incident, however, I know many of my Asian-American peers have not been as fortunate. I stand in solidarity with my community as we continue to fight against anti-Asian hate crimes.”
Susan Lee, candidate for City Council District 1, along with fellow candidates for City Council and League of Asian Americans of New York, will lead a press conference on Monday, March 1st, 2021 at 12:00 noon to demand Manhattan District Attorney’s office to charge Salman Muflihi with attempted murder as a hate crime for the stabbing of a 36 year old man on Worth and Baxter Streets on February 25, 2021. The press conference will take place in front of the Manhattan District Attorney’s office a 1 Hogan Place, New York, NY 10013 and is open to the public.
Muflihi did not know the victim and attacked him because he, “did not like the way he looked at me.” Currently, the victim is in critical condition. He lost a kidney, an adrenal gland and has liver damage. Muflihi was initially charged with attempted criminally negligent homicide but subsequent investigation showed that he attacked another Asian male in January which resulted in a reclassification of his alleged actions as a hate crime by NYPD. However, on February 27th,the Manhattan District Attorney’s office declined to prosecute the attack as a hate crime despite initial indication by police.
There have been at least 10 attacks against Asian American New Yorkers in the last 10 days; at least 12 so far in 2021. Since the establishment of the NYPD Asian Hate Crime Task Force in August 2020, there has been 29 reported cases of hate crime with 24 COVID related. “I want to applaud the NYPD for charging Salman Muflihi with attempted murder as a hate crime but am disappointed that the Manhattan District Attorney’s office failed to follow suit. Mr. Muflihi attacked another Asian man in January. He was holding a knife walking around Chinatown. Clearly, there was an intent to cause harm in our community. Our community demands justice and I strongly urge the DA’s office to upgrade the charges to attempted murder as a hate crime,” stressed Susan Lee, candidate for City Council District 1.
Susan Lee, candidate for City Council District 1, supports MTA Chairman and CEO Pat Foye’s request for additional NYPD Transit Officers. With indoor dining at 25%, arenas and stadiums at 10% and middle schools resuming in-person learning on February 22nd, the transit system takes on a critical role for New Yorkers. We need to ensure it is safe and secure.
“The City’s economy and tourism increase when crime decreases. New York City’s economy will not rebound until crime is brought down and subways are safe,” said Susan Lee, candidate for City Council.
Susan Lee applauds the NYPD for the swift apprehension of Rigoberto Astwood Lopez last week. Mr. Lopez allegedly stabbed 4 homeless individuals on the A-train, killing two. I strongly support the MTA’s request for additional NYPD Transit Officers to patrol the system and prevent future violent crimes. Policing, however, will not solve our City’s homeless and mental health issues. Mr. Lopez and his victims all struggle with their mental health. It is common sense for the City to safely shelter those unhoused who seek refuge in subway stations and to provide 24/7 supportive and mental health services to those who live with mental health illnesses.
The pandemic has had a ravaging impact on public safety. In 2020, felony and misdemeanor assaults on transit workers increased by more than 50% and subway crime increased by 34% over the previous year. Since Christmas Eve, 6 riders have been pushed onto the tracks. With a 70% decrease in public transit ridership, attacks often occur without eye-witnesses. Mass transit is a vital part of New York’s reopening and economic recovery. Transit workers, essential workers and residents who commute to work, who travel on public transportation to run errands, visit doctors or see loved ones must feel safe when using the MTA system.
Susan Lee, candidate for City Council District 1, urges mainstream media to report on the spike of Anti-Asian hate crimes. Incidents of hate crime against Asian Americans have spiked during the COVID pandemic and continue to rise. The verbal and physical assaults have left many in the Asian community shaken and on edge. The mainstream media’s attention is critical for the Asian community’s cry for justice to be heard and to push law enforcement to take action.
Stop AAPI Hate received over 2808 firsthand accounts of anti-Asian hate crime from 47 states and the District of Columbia from March 19, 2020 to December 31. 2020. Of those, 126 or 7.3% involved older Asian Americans over 60 years old and 371 or 13.6% involved youth under age 20. Physical assaults represent 8.7% of the incidents; 70.9% were verbal harassments. Women are attacked almost 2.5 times more than men.
A recent increase in violence against older Asian Americans is dangerous and particularly disturbing. In late January, Vicha Ratanapakdee (84 YO) was violently struck and killed in San Francisco. Last week three individuals (55YO, 60YO and 91YO) were shoved to the ground in Oakland, and a man slashed Noel Quintana’s face on the L-train in a near fatal attack here in New York City. This week, four armed men attacked and robbed an elderly Asian man (age unreported) in San Leandro. All of these incidents were unprovoked.
“I thank Daniel Dae Kim and Daniel Wu for bringing hate crimes against Asians to the attention of the mainstream media. I implore the mainstream media to continue to cover anti-Asian hate crimes with or without the celebrity spotlight. We must stop all hate-motivated violence. We all deserve to feel safe,” stressed Susan Lee, candidate for City Council District 1.
I strongly believe what my parents preached: Education is life’s most valuable investment. How can our society make that investment for our children, our future? Not by eliminating the Gifted and Talented (G&T) Program. “This center for intellectually gifted children is important because these kids should not have to go outside the neighborhood or to a private school to get rigor, to get challenged.” Each year, 15,000 students take the exam to vie for only 2,500 available spots. Since parents covet them as their children’s tracks into competitive middle and high schools, the demand is perpetually great. Yet the City seems unwilling or unable to increase their supply. Children who do not place in a G&T program hear a message that they are not worthy of a challenging, rigorous and engaging education. Why not change that narrative and expand these spots? Every community should have a G&T Program.
I am a product of the New York City Public School System. I benefited from both G&T and specialized high school programs. In the 80s and 90s, the G&T Program was available citywide, including low-income districts. Educators identified advanced learners to attend their Special Progress (SP) Program, which were embedded in neighborhood schools with General Education (GenEd) populations. SP students received academically rigorous instructions driven by a robust curriculum, while they interacted with GenEd children from various backgrounds in their own school districts. New York City’s specialized high schools serve over 18,000 students each year, the rigorous curriculum prepares students for top-tiered colleges and highly respected careers.
My classmates and I were not privileged. My mother, a Chinatown seamstress, believed in my academic potential. Between the clatter of noisy sewing machines, she heard from fellow seamstresses that Wagner could provide me an engaging and challenging education. Leaving the poor and working class Lower East Side to attend school in one of the nation’s wealthiest zip codes – both are in Manhattan School District 2 – was a culture shock that I quickly overcame. I was expected to do well, not by my parents, but by my teachers and my peers. SP faculty encouraged students to take the SHSAT. I excelled academically at Wagner and attended Brooklyn Technical High School from 1992-1996 where I relished the great diversity of my class. There were equal numbers of Asians, African-Americans, Latinos and Whites. Their pathways to Brooklyn Tech wound through middle schools like Wagner, which developed the potential of academically motivated students and held them accountable for high standards. I truly believe if I had attended my zoned Lower East Side middle school, I would not have made it into Brooklyn Tech. This was the pathway for practically all my fellow TechKnights.
Soon after I graduated from Wagner in 1992, tracking fell out of favor and the DOE eliminated G&T in most schools. Students lost their access to a rigorous curriculum that could place them into specialized high schools. The elimination of enhanced academic programs for high-potential students in the black and brown communities gradually reduced the enrollment of students of color in specialized high schools. Over time, it has resulted in the percentages we see today and the debate over specialized high school admissions criteria and integration. New York City Public Schools should create more G&T seats citywide. This would provide quality instruction to high performing students beginning at a young age. It would also reduce the current disparities by preparing more students for success in the SHSAT and entrance into specialized high schools.
The Panel for Education Policy rejected Pearson’s contract to administer the Gifted and Talented Exam this spring, which will hurt families like mine who are not privileged or well-to-do and must rely on public schools to engage and challenge their children academically. I fear the destruction of the G&T program may be the first step to eliminating the SHSAT and the eventual dismantling of specialized high schools. The SHSAT is an equalizer, which gives students a fair chance to attend a specialized high school. The elimination of the G&T and SHSAT exams as tools for advancement will marginalized low-income immigrant students.
While everyone is focused on the current lack of diversity at the specialized high schools, let’s not forget that, “three decades ago, there were sizable numbers of black and Latino students at Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, and Brooklyn Tech—in the 1989-90 school year, black and Latino students made up about 10 percent, 22 percent, and 51 percent, respectively, of these schools’ attendees. Once upon a time, these schools looked more like what de Blasio says he wants.” (Ali & Chin). The current low enrollment of black and brown students in specialized high schools is not a failure of the SHSAT, but the manifestation of the lack of available G&T seats citywide. The solution is simple, expand the G&T Programs and outreach to parents and families with 8th graders in low-income neighborhoods to encourage them to take the SHSAT. If elected, my office will work with local community-based organizations in the district to offer free weekend prep courses for students who cannot afford it. It’s long past time to make common sense changes that yield results. Let’s not focus the narrative on eliminating the single test criteria. That only marginalizes low-income immigrant students. Instead, our focus should be more positive: our students deserve a better education, a rigorous curriculum that challenges them and prepares them for the future.
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