Thursday, after nine months boycotting the Chinatown Working Group (CWG) meetings, local labor finally showed up. Hester Street's National Mobilization Against Sweat Shops (NMASS), appeared and read a statement that was a bit over the top -- they called the CWG racist, complaining that the projects had been excluded from the planning -- and stayed through most of the meeting.
Apparently NMASS doesn't know that CWG hasn't defined its borders precisely because some of us wanted the projects included. If NMASS had appeared at earlier meetings, maybe this would have been settled to their satisfaction. The single greatest obstacle to the effectiveness of CGW has been the absence of labor representation.
Meanwhile, CWG still operates without any clear sense of the borders of Chinatown, although, to be quite honest, there's been less and less discussion about the projects, since no one has been around to speak for them -- until Thursday.
So, it was good to see them there, and I hope they return to participate and not just to level mistaken criticisms at the group for failings which are largely their own responsibility for boycotting so long. I am puzzled as to why they showed up now rather than earlier.
But what was important was that they were there and that they had their say, even though they upset several members by calling the plan "racist." Thomas Yu, the CWG chair, had the wisdom and presence of mind to allow them to read their entire statement, epithets and all, avoiding the kind of bitter shouting match and animosity that might have been.
The CWG came into existence because the East Village/LES rezoning process excluded Chinatown. As Victor Papa of the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council has several times warned, it would be a foolish repetition of history for the CWG to then exclude from its process another piece of the neighborhood.
Unfortunately, not much can be planned for the projects if the projects are not represented in the planning process. Who in the projects would want outsiders to plan their future?