AABANY Hosts Weekly Membership Mixer on February 19, 2021

On February 19, 2021, the Membership Committee hosted their weekly virtual Membership Mixer, with 19 participants in attendance. AABANY met members through Remo.

The Membership Committee previously hosted Monthly Mixers at bars, ballparks, stadiums, operas, etc, but due to COVID, we have moved online to offer members a weekly outlet to share their feelings, see old friends, and make new connections. Mixers start at 6:30pm on Friday and the main event ends at 7:30pm but many often stay on after 7:30pm for smaller breakout groups.

Membership Committee will continue to host weekly virtual mixers until it is safe to gather together again in person. 

Please join us this week in the Remo room, for smaller group breakouts on February 26, 2021. To register for this week’s mixer, please sign up online by February 25 at https://www.aabany.org/events/event_details.asp?legacy=1&id=1468896.

Pro Bono and Community Service Committee Presented with Certificate of Commendation at NYS Senators’ Lunar New Year Virtual Celebration

New York State Senators John Liu (11th District, Queens), Andrew Gounardes (22nd District, Brooklyn), Brian Kavanagh (26th District, Manhattan) and Toby Stavisky (16th District, Queens) hosted a Lunar New Year virtual celebration Tuesday evening, February 16, featuring performances from AAPI youth and community honorees. The event was well-attended by city, state and federal elected officials, as well as community leaders and their organizations.

Senator Kavanagh presented May Wong, Esq., and Olympia Moy with a certificate of commendation to recognize the work of AABANY’s Pro Bono and Community Service Committee in providing invaluable legal assistance to the AAPI community during the pandemic. May Wong and Olympia Moy were proud to accept the certificate on behalf of the Pro Bono and Community Service Committee. In their acceptance speech, they detailed the committee’s success in creating a one-day “in-person” clinic in July 2020 to assist tenants with paper applications for the COVID Rent Relief Program. When the COVID Rent Relief Program was extended to February 2021, law students volunteered again to establish a two-week remote hotline service to assist non-English speaking tenants apply via telephone. They were able to assist callers in Mandarin, Cantonese, and Spanish with the help of the committee’s community partners, Chinatown CLT and GOLES. May Wong and Olympia Moy concluded their speech by expressing gratitude towards the State for its effort in addressing the State’s housing and poverty crisis and strongly encouraged the State to “direct emergency financial relief to tenants and property owners in meaningful programs that can provide permanent rental assistance and increased access to rental subsidies.”

Thank you to all the attorney volunteers and law students who helped AABANY and the community, especially May Wong, William Lee, Karen Lin, Nicholas Loh, Xinyi Shen, and Olympia Moy.

Congratulations to the Pro Bono and Community Service Committee on this well-deserved recognition! To learn more about the Committee and all its wonderful work, go to probono.aabany.org. They are always looking for more volunteers so email them at clinic.volunteer@aabany.org if you can help.

AABANY Releases Report on Anti-Asian Hate Amid COVID-19

An eight-fold increase in reported hate crimes against Asians, racist rhetoric such as “the Chinese virus,” and insufficient media coverage of anti-Asian violence — these were among the timely issues discussed at a press conference hosted by the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) on February 11. The press conference centered around AABANY and Paul, Weiss’ co-authored report: A Rising Tide of Hate and Violence against Asian Americans in New York During COVID-19: Impact, Causes, Solutions. Speakers of note included:

  • Chris Kwok, Board Director, Issues Committee Chair
  • Karen King, Vice Chair, Pro Bono & Community Service Committee; Counsel, Paul, Weiss
  • U.S. Rep., Grace Meng (D-NY)
  • Prof. Russell Jeung, Stop AAPI Hate
  • President Frank Wu, Queens College, CUNY
AABANY President Sapna Palla and Executive Director Yang Chen were joined by executive editors of the report Chris Kwok and Karen King, professors Russell Jeung and Frank Wu, and Congresswoman Grace Meng.

The report’s primary finding is that anti-Asian hate and violence surged in 2020. Between March and September of that year, the number of reported anti-Asian hate incidents related to COVID-19 exceeded 2,500. 

At the press conference, Rep. Meng kickstarted the discussion of this grim reality by situating it against a backdrop of long-standing intolerance toward the AAPI community, which motivated the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Meng condemned some of the nation’s top government officials and social institutions for fanning the flames of this deep-rooted racism. As noted in the report, the xenophobic rhetoric of elected officials, paired with misinformation spread by the media, normalizes and fuels disease-based stigma against Asians. The subsequent uptick in violence against Asian communities motivated Meng to propose and help pass House Resolution 908 in 2020 denouncing all forms of anti-Asian sentiment. While Meng described the bill as largely symbolic, it has since been incorporated into President Biden’s presidential memorandum, which includes concrete measures to disseminate COVID-19 resources in different languages and improve the collection of data on hate crimes. Meng’s fight to amplify voices within the AAPI community thus lights the path forward. “We’ve taken a positive step — an initial step — but we must continue to speak out whenever and wherever anti-Asian sentiment rises,” said Meng. 

A similar desire to spotlight the plight of AAPIs motivated Chris Kwok to serve as an executive editor for the report on anti-Asian violence. Since the onset of the pandemic, Kwok noted at the conference, there has not been a single prosecution or civil resolution for any incident of anti-Asian bias. A key purpose of the report is thus to show that Asian invisibility in the political and legal space has real-life consequences. Moving forward, Kwok hopes to inspire a constructive dialogue among Asians and other Americans alike. To that end, the report highlights seven initiatives that will help policyholders at all levels keep communities safe and hold perpetrators of violence accountable. These initiatives range from broad prescriptions, such as public education campaigns and collaboration among minority groups, to specific remedies, such as clear reporting mechanisms for victims and the more consistent prosecution of hate crimes. 

Professor Russell Jeung continued the discussion of possible solutions to anti-Asian hate incidents while echoing his concern about the divisive effects of COVID-19. Drawing from data he helped collect for Stop AAPI Hate, Jeung said that among United States cities, New York City reported the second-highest number of hate incidents in the past year. Assessing the range of anti-Asian hate incidents reported to Stop AAPI Hate, the report notes a concerning number of incidents involving verbal harassment, physical assault, and being coughed and spat on. Worse still, the youth and the elderly are the most common victims of racist attacks and consequent racial trauma. Among its federal recommendations to address this issue, Stop AAPI Hate proposes to expand civil rights protections for AAPIs experiencing discrimination, end the racial profiling of Chinese researchers, and mobilize a federal interagency response to anti-Asian hate amid the pandemic. As Jeung is quick to emphasize, this fight for the civil rights of Asian Americans is a fight to expand protections for all Americans. “Please stand up, speak out, build bridges, and together we can make good on the promise of a diverse democracy,” said Jeung.

In promoting the proposals of Stop AAPI Hate and the report, for which he wrote the foreword, Queens College President Frank Wu highlighted the importance of building multi-racial coalitions. Wu identified Black, Latinx, and other underrepresented communities as allies to the AAPI community. As emphasized in the report, stronger collaboration among such minority groups is especially critical in communities like New York City, whose diversity heightens the danger that hate incidents exacerbate racial politics. “It would be a mistake of principle and pragmatism to point the finger at another group and suggest that others are guilty by association,” said Wu. Instead, we must look to universal values and American ideals as forces for national unity. As Wu writes in the foreword to the report, “To be Asian American is to be American, to express confidence enough in an experiment of self-governance to participate wholeheartedly.”

President Frank Wu, Queens College, CUNY, wrote the foreword of the report.

Rep. Meng concluded the press conference by calling on all Americans, especially those raised in the United States, to identify and combat racism when it occurs within their own circles. Meng stated that too often, stories of victims from the AAPI community are left out of mainstream media and the public consciousness. Along with implementing the aforementioned policy recommendations, therefore, Meng emphasized the need for racial solidarity. Only then can Americans progress toward the shared goal of dismantling systemic racism in this country and advancing justice for all. 

ASIAN AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION OF NEW YORK ANNOUNCES RELEASE OF REPORT ON RISE OF ANTI-ASIAN VIOLENCE IN NEW YORK DURING COVID-19

NEW YORK – February 10, 2021 – The Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) is proud to announce the release of its report co-authored with Paul, Weiss, ​A Rising Tide of Hate and Violence against Asian Americans in New York During COVID-19: Impact, Causes, Solutions​. Executive editors of the report were Chris Kwok, AABANY Board Director and Issues Committee Chair, and Karen King, Vice Chair of AABANY’s Pro Bono and Community Service Committee and Counsel at Paul, Weiss. The report is dedicated to Corky Lee, who passed away on January 27, 2021 due to COVID-19. Corky was a revered photographer in the Asian American community who had been documenting the effort to combat anti-Asian violence and harassment in the wake of COVID-19. Read more here.

To read A Rising Tide of Hate and Violence against Asian Americans in New York During COVID-19: Impact, Causes, Solutions, click here.

AABANY and Chinatown CLT Host Successful Rent Relief Application Virtual Phone Clinic

By Nick Loh

The Asian American Bar Association of New York (“AABANY”) just concluded a virtual phone clinic to assist Mandarin and Cantonese speaking tenants in applying for the NYS Homes and Community Renewal’s (HCR) COVID Rent Relief Extension Program. This HCR program allowed NYS renters to seek a one-time rental subsidy for the months of April – July 2020. The program originally opened for submission in late July 2020, extended to August 8, 2020, and then re-opened the application process on December 18, 2020 until February 1, 2021. We assisted 83 callers in total: 87.5% of those callers had limited English proficiency, with most callers speaking Cantonese (41.1%) and Mandarin (46.4%). We handled this call volume with a dedicated team of 24 volunteers.

In response to the program’s second extension, AABANY organized a coalition to get bilingual information and resources out to the community. Articles ran in ethnic newspapers during the weekend of January 17, 2021, announcing our COVID Rent Relief Project 2.0. The goal of the project remote clinic was (1) to provide information to callers on how to apply, (2) if necessary, to have the volunteer and caller contact HCR’s Call Center together to reach an interpreter, and/or (3) to have the volunteer act as the interpreter. No legal advice or legal representation was provided.

At a time of increasing isolation due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and in the face of language access barriers for Mandarin and Cantonese speaking NYC residents, the AABANY Virtual Phone Clinic provided a welcome opportunity to build relationships in the community and provide assistance. 

AABANY would like to thank William Lee, Vice Chair of the Student Outreach Committee; May Wong, Remote Clinic Coordinator, and the Organizers of the COVID Response Law Student Team (Nicholas Loh, Xinyi Shen, and Olympia Moy). We thank the 16 law school volunteers (representing 8 different law schools) and 5 community members who made calls, waited on hold to speak to HCR, and provided this valuable assistance to the community.

AABANY would like to thank our community leaders who partnered with us in making this clinic a possibility. They include:

  • AABANY’s Pro Bono and Community Services Committee –  Co-chairs – Asako Aiba, Judy Lee, Karen Lin, and Karen Kithan Yau; Remote Clinic Coordinator – May Wong
  • AABANY’s Vice Chair of the Student Outreach Committee – William Lee
  • Roxy Chang, Community Organizer of Asian American For Equality
  • Lizzie Lee, Community Liaison from NYS Senator Brian Kavanagh’s office  
  •  Damaris Reyes, Executive Director, GOLES, Inc.
  • Jacky Wong, Chinatown Community Land Trust