‘It’s like a zombie land’: The sorry state of Sara Roosevelt Park a year after Christina Yuna Lee’s murder

One year since Christina Yuna Lee was brutally stabbed to death inside her Chinatown apartment, locals say the area of Sara Roosevelt Park — steps away from her former home — remains rife with drug use and the mentally ill.

The area’s decay remains for all to see, almost one year to the day since Lee, 35, was fatally stabbed about 40 times during the early hours of Feb. 13, 2022. The attack, which led to the arrest of 25-year-old Assamad Nash, sent shock waves throughout the city and cast a grim spotlight on the nearby Sara Roosevelt Park, along with the prevalence of drug abuse and mental health issues plaguing the area.

Over the last year, amNewYork Metro has observed the park which stands adjacent to the apartment where Yuna Lee was brutally murdered. While the temperature has dramatically changed from this time last year, very little else has, according to locals.

A makeshift bed in the park. Photo by Dean Moses
Two men meet with a syringe disposal container. Photo by Dean Moses

Sara D. Roosevelt Park stretches through East Houston Street, Canal Street, Christie Street and Forsyth Street, and has become somewhat of a haven for Lower Manhattan’s forgotten and downtrodden; a byproduct of this is also drug use and violence resulting from those looking to take advantage of the plight of others.

The area has improved over the years, although marginally, said one man who works in the neighborhood.

“It’s like a zombie land over here but it used to be a lot worse. They will pass out right here on this sidewalk,” Frank said, a worker at a nearby warehouse who didn’t want to disclose his last name.

Frank said that the NYPD and the Parks Department have attempted to address the issues.

“The police and the park rangers, or whatever you call them, try to clear it out and chase them away. It’s still going on, but not as much as it used to be.”

A man slumps over. Photo by Dean Moses
A man slumps over. Photo by Dean Moses

amNewYork Metro observed several drug exchanges throughout the park, including individuals slumped over and using drugs.

There has also been an uptick in assaults in recent times in the 5th Precinct, of which Sara Roosevelt Park is a part.

According to NYPD data, the 5th Precinct has seen a rise in felony assaults so far this year, when compared to the same timeframe in 2022. In 2023, there were 22 felony assaults in the area through Feb 12, compared to 18 for the same period in 2022. 

For many, the shoddy condition of the park is viewed as the norm. While some find it uncomfortable, others say the prevalence of those dependent on illegal substances is simply sad. 

Malvi, who didn’t want to provide her last name, lives nearby and often walks her dog through the park. She told amNewYork Metro that she feels safe but is concerned about the plight of the homeless.

“Like they need help. The city needs to bring some resources and include some information of where they can go,” she said.

Pushing a cart through the park. Photo by Dean Moses
The park is a meet up point for those on hard times. Photo by Dean Moses