Across the nation, the Asian American community has been enduring a plague of racist attacks, which have escalated since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. Sadly, the North Brooklyn community is not immune to this hateful violence.
A Greenpoint resident, who asked to remain anonymous, reports an incident that took place with another customer at Sunshine Laundromat & Pinball in early March. Though she has had good experiences with the owner, Peter Rose, in the past, she didn’t always feel comfortable in the presence of other employees. “I have encountered the owner many times in the past, and he’s always been really kind to me even without needing to be…I know him to be a good man…One of his employees is always engaging customers in Pro Trump disinformation and egging them on in the store,” the victim, who identifies as Korean-American, told Greenpointers.
On the morning of March 3, this particular employee was engaging another frequent customer in a political discussion when the resident walked in, said hello, and soon found herself being harassed by the other customer.
“I was just doing my laundry at around 9-9:15 in the morning, and a woman who looked South Asian herself made disparaging comments about the government sending money to China, and was clearly uninformed about everything she was talking about,” according to the police report the victim filed. “I asked her, ‘Can you please stop making these comments about Wuhan/China’ and she proceeded to make threatening comments about her not caring about me or ‘where I’m from’ and that it was a free country, and she was entitled to her free speech. Then she kept going on making threatening comments and getting all riled up to the point where I thought she was going to attack me physically.” The incident was not recorded, as the victim didn’t want to further provoke the attacker.
“I feel physically unsafe going to my own laundromat in broad daylight,” the victim states in the police report, “There was a cop car stationed outside of the CVS across the street at the time, but I didn’t feel confident this would be reported in the official City data about Anti-Asian hate crimes.”
The police report continues: “I’ve had a few major incidents happen to me in my own neighborhood since January 2020 that were unreported because honestly I didn’t think any action would be prioritized against unknown perpetrators, but this was the last straw. I can’t leave the house alone anymore, and definitely can’t go out after dark. I’m not staying silent anymore, and hope that more data will provide the city and NYPD more of an idea what a problem this really is, and has been, for over a year.”
Following the incident, the victim, who used to regularly visit Sunshine to do her laundry, decided to privately reach out to the owner, Peter, via email. After no response to two separate messages, she contacted him through a direct message on Instagram. She still has not heard anything. Though the police report was filed shortly after the incident took place on March 3, she also has not heard anything from law enforcement aside from an email confirmation that the message had been received. Sunshine Laundromat & Pinball did not return Greenpointers’ request for comment.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident in our neighborhood. This resident has found herself subjected to verbal attacks over the past 15 months, to the point where she does not feel comfortable leaving the house by herself after dark. ‘I’m concerned by the amount of anti-Asian racism in Greenpoint, and even more concerned for single Asian women who don’t have someone to accompany them out of the house,” she tells Greenpointers.
“Even with my boyfriend escorting me everywhere, I get comments and rude stares – the latest was last Friday when I was walking into my building and someone in a car said to his companion ‘There’s another one, they’re all over this neighborhood.’”
According to Queens Chronicle, “The NYPD reported that hate crimes motivated by anti-Asian sentiment jumped 1,900% in New York City in 2020.” Nationwide, a disproportionate number of these have been directed against women, 68% out of about 3,800 incidents reported to Stop AAPI Hate.
There are ways you can support your Asian neighbors during this time. We recently highlighted some great Asian-owned businesses in Greenpoint that you can patronize, although there are certainly many more to explore across our city’s numerous Chinatown neighborhoods. The group Asian Americans Advancing Justice|AAJC has partnered with Hollaback! to offer free bystander training for folks to learn how to de-escalate violence in your community. There are a variety of organizations to which you can donate, from individual GoFundMe campaigns to local community centers (The Strategist released a super comprehensive list here). You can sign up to offer people a safe walk home (or if you yourself need a safe ride, the Cafe Maddy Cab fund can help with the cost).You can also make a point to learn learn about the history of discrimination against Asian communities in the United States and do the hard work of unlearning any biases and stereotypes that you yourself might hold.
We can all do a little something to make North Brooklyn a kinder, more inclusive community.