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In the eight months following the death of a restaurant worker, beaten with a paving stone in the lobby of his Flushing apartment building, his family has been left with little choice but to remain in their fifth-floor apartment and hope they would not be evicted.
Jim Rong Lee, 46, was the sole provider for his family, employed at a Korean restaurant in Manhattan. After his Sept. 23 murder, the Lees no longer had an income and were unable to pay rent. Then in March, they were summoned to court to fight off an eviction notice.
But on Saturday, the Lees were able to cast off at least the physical reminder of Jim Rong Lees death, and the persistent threat of eviction, when they moved into a two-bedroom apartment in East Elmhurst, purchased and renovated by Asian Americans for Equality, a community development group. The Bridge Fund, an organization that provides financial assistance to poor families, paid the first months rent, security deposit, and moving fees.
"I am going to leave with all my strength to go on," said Moung Sun Lee, the widow of Mr. Lee, through her daughter, Bo Young.
News of the relocation came only days after a second suspect was arrested in connection with Lees death, who was attacked in the lobby of his 147th Street building. The suspect, Laquan Stowe, 16, of Manhattan, was charged with second-degree murder, said Detective Theresa Farello, a police spokesman.
Christopher Kui, executive director of Asian Americans for Equality, said his organization purchased the four-unit building in East Elmhurst from the city in January, along with 17 other pieces of property in Queens.
Asian Americans for Equality, which manages 350 units of housing in Chinatown and the Lower East Side, will act as the Lees landlord while helping them seek out a steady source of income. Several months ago, the group also found housing for the family of a Chinese restaurant owner in Jamaica who was murdered delivering food.
While the Lees were living in their Flushing apartment, they subsisted on donations from people who read about the murder in Korean-language newspapers. Moung Sun Lee, 44, his widow, has been unable to work for several years because she suffers from diabetes. In the last eight months, her children, ages 17 to 22, had taken on a variety of jobs, though bringing home barely enough money to pay for day-to-day expenses.
Maria Toledo, a spokeswoman for the Bridge Fund, said the Lees are now receiving public assistance, and the two oldest children, who are in college, are enrolled in work-study. Sung Sin, 17, the youngest of the Lees, is to graduate from Flushing High School this June and begin Barnard College this fall, paying for her tuition through scholarships.
Reach reporter Chris Fuchs by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.
©2001 Community Newspaper Group
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