Christopher Kui, the...
By Betsy Scheinbart
Bao Zhu Chen, whose husband was killed last year while making a Chinese food delivery, was set to move out of the ramshackle back room of the St. Albans restaurant her husband once owned and into a Manhattan apartment last weekend.
Christopher Kui, the executive director of Asian Americans for Equality, a non-profit group that helps people find affordable housing and provides legal services, said Chen signed the lease for a two-bedroom apartment on the Lower East Side in Manhattan last week and was scheduled to move there with her two teenage children.
The apartment is beautiful, Kui said, adding that it was recently renovated and is within walking distance of Chinatown.
Kui said Chen toured the apartment March 14, turning on the water in the bathroom and looking at the stove and refrigerator.
Chen is happy that her 18-year-old son, Yonjie Liu, will have his own bedroom, Kui said. She will share the second bedroom with her 16-year-old daughter, Ziju Liu.
Chen wanted to find housing in or near Chinatown so she would not be socially isolated by a language barrier, Kui said. Although she is learning English, Chens first language is a dialect native to the Fujian province in China. She also speaks some Mandarin, which is commonly spoken in Chinatown, Kui said.
She moved from China to St. Albans in 1998 to join her husband, Jin Sheng Liu, who ran the Golden Wok restaurant on Linden Boulevard in St. Albans.
On Sept. 1, 2000 Liu delivered $60 worth of Chinese food to a secluded cul-de-sac in Springfield Gardens, where he was allegedly attacked by five teenagers.
One girl and four male teens, the youngest only 14, were arrested and charged with second-degree murder for allegedly beating Liu to death with their fists and a brick, police said. They are awaiting trial.
After her husband died, the Golden Wok closed, but Chen and her children continued to live illegally in the stores back room, the only home they ever knew in America.
Last month the landlord of the building told the family he would be forced to evict them by the end of March because the space was not zoned as a residence. At that point, Chens housing search intensified, with the help of Mayor Rudolph Giulianis Community Assistance Program, the New York City Department of Housing and Asian Americans for Equality.
We couldnt just stand by and let this family live on the street, Kui said.
On Feb. 27, Chen applied for rent-subsidized housing in addition to her previous request for public housing. The housing reimbursement from the city will pay for about two-thirds of her $690 rent at the new apartment, Kui estimated.
She is very happy that this apartment is available. She looks at it as a foundation, so she can get on with her life, Kui said after meeting with Chen March 14. She is very appreciative of the help she has received.
She is a very strong woman. Despite the tragedy, she wants to rebuild her life in New York and she has no bitterness towards New York, Kui said.
Chen is also getting $290 in public assistance each week but wants to be self-sufficient, Kui said. She wants to start looking for a job, in anything but a restaurant.
Luther Mook, the director of Homecrest Community Services, a Brooklyn senior center that has been assisting Chen since shortly after her husbands death, said the new apartment would be an adjustment for the woman.
In some ways it will be easier, Mook said about the move to the Lower East Side. More people speak Chinese in the area, and on that basis, I think she is happy.
Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300 Ext. 138.
©2001 Community News Group
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