City’s First Asian-American Dem Club Launched in Sunset Park


It was like going to a Broadway opening with all the supporting players on stage, but nobody cast in the lead role.

That’s how the launch of the New York City Asian-American Democratic Club (NYCADC) felt at the Park Restaurant, 6521 8th Avenue – one of the top eateries in the heart of Brooklyn’s Chinatown.

State Sen. Jesse Hamilton address the New York City Asian American Democratic Party launch last week.
State Sen. Jesse Hamilton address the New York City Asian American Democratic Party launch last week.

All the white, black and Hispanic electeds representing Brooklyn’s vast Far East Asian neighborhoods such as Sunset Park, Bensonhurst, Bath Beach and Gravesend were in attendance and invited to speak. This included Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, State Sen. Jesse Hamilton, Assembly Members Peter Abbate, Felix Ortiz and Bill Colton, and City Council Members Mark Treyger and Carlos Menchaca, and almost all brought along their Asian aids on the payroll.

There were also several citywide Asian elected officials including Queens Congresswoman Grace Meng, Assemblyman Ron Kim and former Comptroller John Liu.

But glaringly missing were any Asian-Americans from these Brooklyn communities challenging this status quo of politicians, and this included Yungman Lee, who is running against Velazquez this June in the Democratic Party Congressional Primary.

Lee is a prominent Manhattan Chinatown banker, attorney and former official in former Governor Mario Cuomo’s administration.

“We just can’t let everybody that finds a mic and camera to do their thing,” said NYCADC President Kenneth Chiu, who currently works as an aid to Hamilton and formerly worked for Ortiz.

Chiu said Lee was informed about the Club’s launch, but was not invited like the electeds, who were special guests. The Club hasn’t decided yet on who they will support in the Velazquez-Lee Primary, Chiu said, adding that Velazquez has worked behind the scenes in the Asian-American community doing good things.

Liu acknowledged the lack of any Asian-American candidates from Brooklyn challenging those in office, but was happy to see the Club launched just the same as an important step for the growing empowerment of the City’s Asian-American community.

“I think every growing community, including the Asian community should have its own direct representatives. That’s up to the voters. Where that particular person is elected specifically in the vast borough of Brooklyn is hard to say, and exactly where that’s going to happen is hard to say, but it will happen sooner rather than latter,” said Liu, acknowledging that the Federal government once had to come into Brooklyn to create a voting rights district so that the borough’s large black population could finally get one of their own (Shirley Chisholm) elected to Congress.

“Arguably there is still some gerrymandering going on, whether it’s legally explicit or not, but all communities rise. When a community like the Asian community rises where it elects its own representatives, it’s great for the Asian-American community, but it’s great for everyone else as well and that’s why this is so exciting. The first Asian-American Democratic Club has its roots in the great borough of Brooklyn,” said Liu.

And in this regard, the launch was a celebration, in which the electeds in attendance utilized their speeches to talk about unity behind immigration reform (Velazquez), having no elected officials besides District Leader Nancy Tong (Colton), stopping Governor Cumo’s targeting of Asian businesses for fines and regulatory labor issues (Hamilton); and that there will be no rest until Brooklyn finally has an elected Asian-American to public office (Treyger).

But Michael Tobman, communications director of the Lee campaign, said it was peculiar that the organizer of this Club thought it appropriate to highlight an incumbent Congress Member facing a strong challenge from an Asian American, and not that Asian American challenger.

“While community empowerment is the shared goal of every thoughtful person in politics and government, it’s still very unclear what this effort is really all about,” said Tobman.