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AWA Calls on NYC Council Speaker Adams to Remove Nantasha Williams as Chair and Defund VocalNY

For Immediate Release

December 9, 2022

New York, NY – At yesterday’s public hearing on Int 632, AWA President Yiatin Chu and community leader Susan Lee testified to oppose the Fair Chance for Housing Act. Following their testimonies, a speaker testifying for the organization VOCAL NY, Douglas Powell, made hateful and divisive remarks against the Asian American community in Rego Park, NY and at large saying that “Rego Park is the most racist neighborhood I’ve ever been in, and there’s nothing but Asians there”. He then called the testimonies given by Chu and Lee as “garbage” wrapping up his remarks with “Not their neighborhood, ‘they’ from China, Hong Kong, ‘we’ from New York”.

Council Member Nantansha Williams who was chairing the meeting did nothing to stop the tirade. Williams made no disapproving comments after Powell finished speaking and even permitted him to speak one minute longer than allowed. The City Hall staff then thanked the panel and moved on.

At 10am today, Williams issued a five-tweet thread that started out with “Racism and discrimination hurt us all” and then took the opportunity to speak of her work for the Black and Asian communities, and ending with a generic denouncement of “hateful comments”. All without apologizing for her failure to act as Chair during the meeting nor denouncing Powell’s remarks directly.

“Chair Williams condoned the hate speech by letting the man rant uninterrupted and failing to call it out when he finished. What Williams tweeted out was a non-apology, just so she can check a box. She did not condemn VocalNY rep’s anti-Asian hate speech.”, said Yiatin Chu, President of Asian Wave Alliance.

“It is deeply disappointing and hurtful that Majority Leader Keith Powers’ first reaction was ‘I was in the other room’ and that it took hours for him to step up and condemn this deeply divisive rhetoric with stronger language,” said Jean Hahn, a founding member of AWA and parent in Rego Park, the neighborhood which Powell resides in. “I am grateful and appreciative that our own council member, Lynn Schulman recognized this for what it is—harmful anti-Asian rhetoric —and immediately condemned these words.”

Donghui Zang, another founding member of AWA and parent who lives nearby Rego Park, said “I was also particularly shocked by the statement that Rego Park is the racist neighborhood from the video. As a resident who has lived nearby for 20 yrs, I feel the place is diverse and lovely where people from all ethnic groups live, work and go to school together harmoniously.” Zang further stated that, “New York City should not tolerate such racism against Asian American people anywhere on anytime, not to say it happened in a holy testimony at City Hall!” and demanded condemnation of VocalNY from the Mayor and Council.

Words are not enough for the violence that hate speech incites. We urge Speaker Adrienne Adams to remove Nantasha Williams as Chair of the Human and Civil Rights Committee. We also call on the City Council to defund VocalNY. City Council leadership must show us that there is zero tolerance for such racist, divisive and dangerous speech against Asian New Yorkers.

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