Crime, City’s Economy Concern South Asian Voters

Shoppers at South Asian stores in Jackson Heights, Queens. (Photo by Zachary Korb, Creative Commons Licence)

In Jackson Heights, Queens, South Asian voters worry about the economy and crime. (Photo by Zachary Korb, Flickr Creative Commons License)

The city’s finances, budget cuts and crime are some of the top concerns for the city’s South Asian community ahead of the mayoral elections this fall, says Karishma Thakkar in a report in News India Times.

Most South Asians remain undecided, ready to throw their support behind a candidate who can articulate a vision for their community.

Sona Mehta, 32, an educator, said she would like to see a “more regular type of guy” as the next mayor. “A good listener who works from the bottom up and not from the top down as well as someone who has lived in one or more of the other boroughs,” she said.

The survival of South Asian businesses in neighborhoods such as Curry Hill in the East 20s in Manhattan and Jackson Heights in Queens depend on the economic health of the city. South Asians in these communities are usually not willing to make political comments, but many are ready to move beyond the Mayor Bloomberg era despite approving of the job he’s done.

“I am ready to see a complete change in personality as well as approach,” said Pria Vanda, 34, manager of the eatery Desi Galli in Manhattan’s Curry Hill neighborhood.  “Mayor Bloomberg has run the city as a large corporation. There have been many wonderful results but the approach is impersonal.”

She feels, that overall, small businesses suffered under Bloomberg and she would like to see the next mayor focus more on businesses like hers and not as much on the big corporations.

Recent preliminary figures from the New York State Department of Labor about unemployment suggest that Bloomberg will end his third term on a better note than it started.  The unemployment rate in New York City fell to 8.3% in May 2013, its lowest level since February 2009. But fears still abound about cuts in the city’s budget, especially for services and benefits.

That’s why Mustafa Gholam, an employee of Rajbhog Sweets in Jackson Heights, Queens, would like to see a passionate and honest leader who will bring change for the better.

“Mayor Bloomberg did a good job overall, but money and budgets are the central issues for me,” he said. “I do not feel budgets have been used properly, especially after Hurricane Sandy. There are still many places in Queens and Brooklyn where homeowners who have no insurance cannot get help for home damages.”

Indeed, inflation and cutbacks seem to be the main worry for a few residents interviewed.

Mohammed Parvez, 32, who works at Curry Leaf Restaurant in Curry Hill and lives in Harlem, feels rents are too high and expenses are soaring especially within a bad economy and job market.

The South Asian community has been on edge on the question of security following the massacre at the Oak Creek gurdwara in Wisconsin and the noticeable rise in crime in their neighborhoods across the city and  country. The death of Queens resident Sunando Sen, 46, in the latest incidence of a hate crime, has sent shockwaves across the community. A woman who claimed she hated Hindus and Muslims allegedly pushed Sen to his death on the city’s subway tracks.

Following lobbying by community groups, the FBI’s Advisory Policy Board recently recommended that the agency begin collecting data on hate crimes against Sikhs and Hindus by 2015.

“There have been many violent incidents in the United States and not enough security protocols in place. The subways are especially a vulnerable place as well as general public facilities,” said Ankit Shah, 27, a financial adviser in Manhattan who lives in Kew Gardens, Queens.

Mohammad Pier, president of the Jackson Heights Bangladeshi Business Association and an undecided voter, wants to back a candidate who supports the South Asian community’s agenda. To him, development issues and NYPD surveillance of the Muslim community are the bigger concerns.

“In light of all incidents, whether crime or terrorism, I would like a sense of peace and security all around from terrorist threats to street crime in Jackson Heights,” Pier said.

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