Brooklyn’s Chinese-American Community Ramps up Pressure on Bail Reform

U.S. Rep. and Candidate for Governor Lee Zeldin speaks at the Asian-American rally in Brooklyn. Contributed Photo.

A number of community organizations and elected officials rallied in Brooklyn’s Chinatown Saturday to address a rise in crime on the city’s subways. 

The rally took place amid a weekend of violence in the transit system, where four people were stabbed in separate incidents on trains and platforms across the city.

The rally also followed two recent incidents of violence targeting Asian Americans. Most recently, there was the murder of Christina Yuna Lee, 35, who was followed home and stabbed over 40 times in her Chinatown apartment last week. And last month Michelle Go, 40, was pushed off a subway platform at the Times Square station and killed by an oncoming train.

Wai Wah Chin, charter spokesperson of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance of Greater New York said while her organization is most concerned about anti-Asian hate, they’re calling for combating rising crime more generally.

“This was not an event that was on ‘anti-Asain hate,” but it was an event against (all of) the crimes, the attacks,” said Chin. “This was held in front of the central subway station in the Brooklyn Chinatown because, of course, that is a lifeline and if people are scared getting on the subway, (then) they can’t perform their usual activities in the same manner.”

Joining Chin’s organization were U.S. Reps. Nilcole Malliotakis (R – Brooklyn, Staten Island) and Lee Zeldin (R – Long Island) – who’s also running in the Republican gubernatorial primary – as well as Assemblyman Peter Abbate (D – Brooklyn). 

Chin said they’re mainly calling on lawmakers to roll back some of the bail reforms that passed the state legislature a little over two years ago, which she believes are most responsible for the city’s rise in violent crime. The reforms eliminated cash bail for most misdemeanors and non-violent felonies, but was left in place for most violent crimes. They were intended to make the system more equitable by not holding people in jail pre-trial just because they couldn’t afford bail.

“The demand is really that you’ve got to go and stop crime,” Chin said. “You have to go and take care of that issue from the politician’s side. The politicians created this problem, they should go and fix it.”

In a statement to PoliticsNY, Zeldin also blamed the rise in both anti-Asain violence and crime overall on the bail laws and other criminal justice reforms championed by progressive Democrats at all levels of government over the past few years.

“Cashless bail, the Less is More Act, District Attorneys who refuse to enforce the law, the defund the police movement and other fatally flawed liberal policies have surrendered our streets to criminals,” Zeldin said. “Everyday New Yorkers are paying the price. The Asian American community in New York has bore the brunt of this violence as anti-Asian hate and violence have ravaged their community.”

Although Abbate voted for the bail reforms back in 2019, the south Brooklyn lawmaker has either led or signed onto efforts to roll back some of those changes since then. For instance, Abatte is co-sponsoring a bill from Assemblyman Charles Cusick (D – Staten Island) that seeks to give judges more discretion in holding people charged with gun possession pre-trial with or without bail.

“My belief has always been that judges should have discretion on whether, you know, if the person is a danger to the community,” Abbate said. “ I mean, there’s a big difference (between) someone stealing baby formula for their child and them going to steal alcohol out of the store. So, I think we have to look at the bail reform law and tighten it up where it’s appropriate.”

But state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stuart Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie as well as many other state lawmakers have recently reaffirmed their support for the bail reforms and pushed back on their connection to the rise in crime. According to a published report, court data has shown as few as 2 percent of people who were released after being arrested have been rearrested for a violent crime.

In a meeting with Mayor Eric Adams last week, Heastie and Stuart Cousins made it clear they had no intention of rolling back the bail reforms anytime soon.