Residents of Chinatown joined together in collective sorrow and anger following the murder of their neighbor Christina Yuna Lee.
Well over a hundred Chinatown locals gathered in Sara D. Roosevelt Park on Chrystie and Hester Streets to decry another senseless death of a member of the AAPI community and to demand action. Roaring with anger the group chanted, “Enough is enough!” and lambasted elected officials for failing to take meaningful action.
“I live here. I work here. I’m Italian. My wife is Asian—this has got to stop. I am afraid for myself, and I am afraid for my wife. Please I beg the city of New York: Protect my family,” Edward Cuccia said.
Thirty-five-year-old Christina Yuna Lee was allegedly followed into her Chrystie Street apartment during the early hours of Feb. 13 by Assamad Nash, 25, who stabbed her to death. Clinging to photographs of Lee, the community charged that this death is a symptom of a broken New York, in particular Sara D. Roosevelt Park for being a haven of drug use, homelessness, and mental illness. As amNewYork Metro noted in July 2021, residents say the state of the park has grown worse during the pandemic, leaving them feeling unsafe and disgusted.
“We need something real, not a knee-jerk reaction BS from our elected officials,” local advocate Don Lee said. “Without real accountability this will continue to happen. It will continue to happen in places like Chinatown because this is where we lack resources.”
NYPD Inspector Max Tolentino was on the way to work when he decided to pay his respects by joining in the sorrow. After hearing about the case, he yearned to stand in solidarity with community in mourning.
“They are out here asking that we don’t have another crime like this again and that they’ve had enough and rightfully so. And, you know, I’m just here to support this community,” Tolentino told amNewYork Metro.
Tolentino also strove to remind the Chinatown residents that the NYPD is on hand to support them, and they will be conducting special training programs to keep locals safe.
“We’re just going to add a series of more events like this throughout the city to help inform them of how to stay safe. And if they see anything strange, call 911 immediately,” Tolentino said.
Lee’s murder has both caused bystander trauma where locals fear to leave their homes and resurrects assault memories for those who’ve survived anti-Asian hate crimes.
Potri Ranka Manis, a registered nurse, was attacked by a couple last summer while distributing masks on a E train at 42nd Street and 8th Avenue in Manhattan. When she heard about Lee’s death, the memories of her assault and the stories of countless AAPI victims flooded her mind.
“All this hate crime that’s going on is just surfacing the cracks of our society that grabs the attention to mental health that grabs attention to poverty, ” Manis said. “This is a trigger for me.”
Many at the rally also carried bouquets of flowers, for with the rage also came anguish hugging roses and daisies, neighbors bestowed one last Valentine’s Day gift upon Lee by leaving the flowers at a tree outside her apartment that still remains wrapped in police tape.
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.