Sunset Park subway attack shakes multicultural working class community

On Tuesday, members of the New York Police Department and emergency vehicles throng the streets near a subway station in New York’s Brooklyn borough. Image: Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images

As the subway attack in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park dominates national news, elected officials, activists and residents speak out about the struggles and strengths of a diverse community suddenly in the spotlight.

Specifically, they note that it is home to a large immigrant and working-class population, whose members rely heavily on the subway system for getting around.

Sunset Park, home to Brooklyn’s Chinatown, is 27% Chinese and 39% Hispanic, according to the Asian American Federation, who calls the neighborhood “a wonderful microcosm of what makes NYC great.” But he also notes that about 24% of Asian Americans in Sunset Park live in poverty.

“Today’s tragedy has once again shaken our immigrant, working and vulnerable communities,” the nonprofit said. wrote on Twitter.

Locals have taken to social media to dispel stereotypes about the neighborhood. Dominique Jean-Louis, public historian, described it not like “yuppies with $7 lattes Brooklyn” but rather “football and paletas and “ICE couldn’t hold anyone down because their neighbors were kicking them out of the “Brooklyn” building.

His tweet racked up more than 31,000 likes and sparked a chain of replies, with other commenters expressing their agreement and adding their favorite things about the neighborhood, from its namesake park and public swimming pool to its social justice and climate activism.

“Sunset Park is a transformational working community, full of leaders, that faces the challenges of displacement, ice raids, health disparities, but responds with collective care and love whenever there is a [crisis]”, wrote UPROSEa Brooklyn-based social service organization.

Local voices are drawing attention to the fear and disruption caused by Tuesday’s incident, especially in a city and community where the subway is one of the most affordable forms of transportation.

New York State Assemblyman Marcela Mitaynes, whose district includes Sunset Park, describes the station as “a hub for our local working-class immigrant communities.”

Qian Julie Wang, writer and civil rights lawyer, noted on Twitter that just one hour of subway closure can be expensive — and that Sunset Park residents, like all New Yorkers, deserve to feel safe.

“The metro is the artery of the city,” she writes. “Each attack drains the soul of our house.”

Sunset Park, like many New York neighborhoods, has faced its fair share of challenges in recent years, as its local elected officials have pointed out.

In a joint statementMitaynes and New York City Council member Alexa Avilés said the community is “still emerging from the collective trauma of this pandemic” and Tuesday’s incident added to that pain.

Citing reports that police at the scene needed the help of commuters to call 911, officials said a greater police presence on the trains or in the neighborhood could not have prevented the attack and that what the district needs is reassurance that “our pain will not be used as a scapegoat for policies that will not keep us safer.”

They also called for investments in social services like housing, health care and education, and an end to the manufacture and circulation of guns in the United States. And they added:

“We call on our city, state and federal partners for a multi-faceted, effective and evidence-based public safety response, including abundant mental health resources for short-term victims, in more significant investments in violence prevention and termination programs, full employment and guaranteed housing move forward – before more people are harmed.”

This story originally appeared in the morning edition live blog.

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