Advocates and tenants gathered in front of Asian Americans for Equality’s Chinatown office (AAFE) to push back against the eviction of senior tenant Lichang Wang, 62, who has been a resident at 141 Norfolk Street for more than ten years.
On July 12th, she called the NYPD after she heard and saw people trying to change the lock of her apartment, she said. The police came, spoke with the management, and told her that everything would be fine. Moments later, Wang was called down to speak with the building manager and was reassured that everything would be fine. When she returned to her apartment, the lock had been changed.
“All of my belongings were in there. I am angry that they tricked me, even though I was told by social workers and the NYPD that they could not evict me,” Wang told Documented.
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In May, Documented published an extensive investigation into AAFE, which receives philanthropic dollars and has nonprofit status, and found that the housing organization operates less like a charity and more like any other housing developer.
Wang said that the rent had been paid until July 15th, and that the original deposit was not refunded to her. She claims that AAFE kicked her out of the apartment after her ex-husband, whose name was on the lease, left the apartment earlier this year. However, when she reached out for help to local organizations, social workers not only told her that she could stay, but they also helped her apply for rental assistance.
“The first day I met [Wang], she was under a tree, with her sneakers drying next to her because it had rained the day before. She had not been able to go back into the apartment to change clothes,” Yolanda Zhang, an organizer of Youth Against Displacement, said in an interview.
In email correspondence to Documented, Ed Litvak, director of Marketing & Communications at AAFE, said that Wang’s claims are unfounded. According to Litvak the unit in question had been vacated by the tenant in the lease (Wang’s ex husband), who had also signed a document “testifying that no one else was living in the unit or had rights to live in the unit.”
The statement also said that they never heard of her prior to the day of the eviction, which Wang denied. She said she had signed leases previously, and is well known by her neighbors.
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