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We have always admired the bluntness of City Councilwoman Julia Harrison (D-Flushing). This is a woman who does not hesitate to say exactly what is on her mind. Unfortunately, we often do not think much of what was on the councilwoman's mind last week.
In three separate interviews, Harrison engaged in shameless bashing of Flushing's Asian-American community. In so doing, she has made herself a poster child for term limits. Harrison implied that Asian Americans were trying to buy the City Council election in her district. She has forgotten that in an open election, candidates need money to get their message out. Asian-American candidates, like all others, look first to their home base for support.
Harrison has forgotten what it means to have to fight to get elected or reelected. Like most of the council members who are now preparing their resumes, Harrison did not have to campaign to get reelected. She was an institution in Flushing.
This is not the first time that Harrison has made racist comments, but this time she has gone too far. Speaking of Asian immigrants, the councilwoman told the New York Times, They did not come because of a potato famine or because some czar was conducting a pogrom. They were more like colonizers than immigrants. They sure as hell had a lot of money and they sure as hell knew how to buy property and jack up the rents of retail shops, and drive people out.
Wake up and smell the ginseng, Julia. The Asian immigrants saved Flushing. They poured hundreds of millions of dollars into downtown Flushing creating one of the most dynamic business districts in New York City. Yes, they bought houses in parts of Flushing and northeast Queens that were once the exclusive enclaves of the white middle and upper-middle class. And when they did, the value of these homes and nearby homes went up. What is wrong with that?
She accuses the Asian Americans of jacking-up rents in the business district. When Flushing was on life support, commercial rents were low because no one wanted to open a business there. With the influx of Chinese and Korean merchants, Flushing was revitalized and, quite naturally, rents when up. The high rents in downtown Flushing are a barometer of its remarkable prosperity.
Sadly, we fear that the bigoted remarks made by Harrison reflect a prejudice shared by many of the old guard in Flushing. They resent the fact that Korean Americans are buying homes that many white Americans cannot afford. And they resent the fact that Asian Americans now have the numbers and money it takes to be a player in the city's political system.
To be fair, over the years Harrison has worked hard for her constituents. She has served her district well. But her bias against Asian Americans cannot be ignored or excused. The time has come for Harrison and others who think like her to go quietly into retirement from public service so that a new generation that reflects the diversity of Queens can take the stage.
Editorial: Let the race begin
For the first time that we can remember, we are actually excited about the coming election year. For better of for worse, the challenge to term limits has failed. The race for City Council is now wide open.
In every district of Queens, candidates are gearing up for a political donnybrook. Although some members are hoping to pass the crown to a relative or at least a top aide, there is reason to believe that throughout Queens there will be real primaries in which the results are not a foregone conclusion.
©2001 Community Newspaper Group
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