News from Chinatown: No More Häagen-Dazs, Offensive Murals

[Editor’s note: The two translations below are excerpts of stories that recently appeared in World Journal.]

Manager Jason Liu is reluctant to end the 41-year operation of the store. (Photo by Mike Hong via World Journal)

Häagen-Dazs’ Chinatown shop, the first store of the brand-name ice cream in Manhattan, will close for good at the end of November when its lease expires. The store, which has been in Chinatown for 41 years, will be missed by many people including its Chinese manager, Mike Hong reports in a Sept. 19 story:  

Jason Liu, the manager of the store, said on Sept. 18 that the landlord plans to raise the rent again, which is more than $10,000 now. In addition to utilities and real estate tax, the store is already struggling to pay the close to $20,000 per month venue costs. So it decided to shut down on Nov. 30.

Liu said in the more than 40 years it has been around, the store has become a landmark in Chinatown. “Xuegao,” the Chinese characters for “ice cream,” on the signboard is a collective memory of a generation of Chinese in New York. “When I came to New York more than 10 years ago from Fuzhou as a child, I came here to buy ice cream every time I visited Chinatown,” said Liu.

Liu said the store had been run by a white person until 2010 when the previous owner, in his 80s, retired. The Häagen-Dazs company didn’t want to let go of a store that had been in business successfully for decades, so it persuaded Chusheng Wong, a Chinese businessman who had been running a few Häagen-Dazs shops in Queens to take it over.

Wong kept the historic design of the store and the Chinese slogans and signage were maintained. Even the wooden slide moving the ice cream in the basement is also the original one. But the store has been more active in the community since then. It hired more bilingual employees who speak Mandarin, Cantonese and Fujianese and also donates to community organizations and events.

Karlin Chan (in red) and a friend went to to the intersection of Allen and Hester streets to paint over the graffiti. (Photo courtesy of Karlin Chan via World Journal)

Three murals with the tag of Los Angeles-based Asian artist Sickid upset some community members in New York’s Chinatown, reports Jiaying Yan in a story published on Sept. 18.

The graffiti works with the tag Sickid appeared in many locations in Chinatown. The three illustrations, on Mott Street, at the intersection of Allen and Hester streets, and on Allen Street, are all portraits of Asian men with slanted eyes and bare chests. Some have sexual organs depicted in detail.

Karlin Chan, a community activist, said he thought the murals were very inappropriate. After getting permission from the property owners, he has had two of them covered by paint and is going to paint over the third one shortly.

“These murals are at locations near elementary schools. Children have to look at this lewd graffiti on the way between school and home,” said Chan. “This kind of stuff should not appear in our community.”

Chan continued: “There is a fine line between freedom of speech and racism. The yellow skin and slanted eyes in ‘Sickid’s works are implicit discrimination against Chinese people.” He called on the police to investigate.

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