Chinatown Interview: Interviewee
Chinatown Interview: Interviewer
Chinatown Interview: Date
Chinatown Interview: Language
Chinatown Interview: Occupation
Chinatown Interview: Interview (en)
Q: Mr. Ma, people might be watching or listening to this interview fifty years from now; we’d like them to know a little bit about who you are and where you came from.
WING MA: Okay
Q: So if you could please start out by saying where and when you were born, and tell me a little about your childhood and family, that would be great.
WING: My name is Wing Ma, actually, I have a middle name Guo Kua and in Chinese, we usually have the last name come first---it’s Ma Wing Guo, which means, my last name, which means “horse,” --- “ma” is “horse,” “wing” is “forever,” “Guo” is country, that’s what it means.
I was born in China in a very poor family. We were like---exactly my grandfathers, grandmothers, they are all like farmers in China at that time. After I was two years old, our whole family went to Hong Kong, and I actually grew up in Hong Kong, and when I was 18 years old, I came to this country for college. Ever since then, I stayed in this country---after I graduated, I stayed in this country and I got a job.
To begin with, I was an engineer, and afterwards I had my own business, and I was the owner of a garment manufacturing company in Chinatown here, but four years ago I closed my business because of the economy and also the competition between the offshore and the domestic---you know, we cannot compete with them, so I closed the business, and now I’m working for another business now.
Q: I’m going to take you back for a minute to start out. Do you remember anything about the trip from China to Hong Kong?
WING: Oh, I was about two years old. I remember a little bit. At that time, it was very unusual for people to, with documents, that’s going from China to Hong Kong. I got the document---my family, they got the document from China to Hong Kong, but the Hong Kong they do not accept us at that time, the reason being that there were a lot of refugees that went from China to Hong Kong during the late 50s and early 60s, and that’s why they could not handle too many people who come to Hong Kong at the same time, so our family have to have refugee status to get into Hong Kong. That’s all I remember.
Q: Did your mother or father ever tell you anything about how they made that decision to leave China?
WING: Actually, it was my mother’s decision, more than my father’s. My father actually went to Hong Kong before us, and then he went to the Philippines after he arrived to Hong Kong, and he worked there as a cook. My father was a cook back in China, years ago. He was a very experienced cook, so somebody in Manila hired him from Hong Kong to work over there, at that time, in the early 60s. So my father went to Hong Kong first, then, after about two years, my mother and my two other sisters and me, four of us, we went to Hong Kong afterwards.
Q: So what was your life like in Hong Kong?
WING: Hong Kong is a great city. I grew up. I like Hong Kong, but the only thing is, right now, I like New York better. I like New York better than Hong Kong now. It’s a great place to visit, but not a great place to live, to me personally. I like New York better.
Q: What kind of a place did you live in?
WING: In Hong Kong? Oh, we lived in---in Hong Kong, they don’t have like, they do have houses, but not as many like this country. But because of the limited amount of lands over there, we lived in high rises buildings, apartments, that was where we lived.
Q: Was it big, or small---
WING: Oh, small, it was about like, you have a 300-square foot apartment, you’re lucky, very, very, lucky.
Q: So, you were saying about that you were lucky to have an apartment in Hong Kong.
WING: That’s, as I said last time, when we had a discussion, my mother, she is a very tough and strong lady. She is like the head of the household. She make all the decisions, and they are good, prove to be good. (laughter)
Q: So was she working while you were living in Hong Kong?
WING: She works, at that time she has to take care of my two sisters and me, so she could not go out and work, she just took some home work that she can do at home.
What kind of work did she do at home?
Q: What kind of school did you go to?
WING: I went to Hong Kong, in the Catholic school, from primary to secondary. It’s a British educational system; they don’t have like grade one, two, three like this country. There are six grades in the primary school, and five grades in the secondary school, and then two years in the post-secondary school, three year colleges. Actually, it’s the same thing, because they have three year college, but they have two years post secondary, which is 12th and the 13th grade, they’re called.
So when I finished my secondary school, I took one more year post secondary, and then I came to this country for college.
Q: Did you like school?
WING: Oh, very much. I was a very good student. As a matter of fact, I had a GPA of 3.5 in college. And I have my master degree in engineering, too. My master degree’s GPA was 3.8.
Q: And, are you Catholic?
WING: Fortunately, or unfortunately, I’m not. I don’t have any religion, personally. I respect all the religions, but I don’t believe in any religion. I respect all of them, because they are all good.
So, what kinds of things did you do for fun, growing up in Hong Kong?
What was your daily life like there?
WING? You mean, when I was there?
WING: At that time, there wasn’t anything like what we have now. We did not have any video game, we did not have any TV, at that time if you own a TV at home you are very luxury, you are like rich. But at that time, not to many people had a TV at home. So we just hang around with our school friends and play some kind of games of our own, you know, but at that time when I was in Catholic school, I have a lot of school friends that they are from other countries. So we learned English from them and they learned Chinese from us, which is a lot of fun. I love that kind of interchanging knowledges, which is good.
And how about when you were a teenager, what sort of social life did
WING: Very simple. Because I grew up in a family that is pretty strict. We are not allowed to go out, hanging around the street, by ourselves, so I usually stayed home, and we usually go out with our friends with the permission of my mother, or father, you know, so it’s like very simple. Usually we go out to the movies, or go to play some kind of a basketball, or you know, sports, that’s all. Pretty simple, and pretty enjoyable.
What kinds of movies would you see?
WING: Some Western, some Chinese movies. At that time, there are a lot of movies from the United States too---they are in Hong Kong, so a lot of good movies I saw in Hong Kong, I’ve seen again here on TV, which is very funny.
Q: How did you make the decision to come to college in the United States?
WING: Because when I graduate from the secondary school, there were only two universities in Hong Kong. And when you graduate from a secondary school, how many students? Over a hundred thousand students, to go into two universities for about two thousand seats---the two thousand seats not only for the students in Hong Kong, but for overseas students, too. So you’re talking about only a thousand seats for a hundred thousand, more than a hundred thousand people. Less than one percent. So I could not make it. So that’s why I have to come to this country for college education.
Q: I remember you said that your father was a cook in the Philippines. Did he come and live with you all in Hong Kong at all while you were there?
WING: Yes. My father worked like ten months over there, and come to Hong Kong for two months vacation, and every year is like that.
Q: I remember you telling me before in our previous interview that you met him for the first time when you were eight.
WING: Yes. Because when I was about like a few months old, my father left China for Hong Kong, and then from Hong Kong to the Philippines. But when we arrived at Hong Kong, he was in the Philippines, so I didn’t see my father until I was eight years old. The first time he came there from the Philippines to Hong Kong was 1964, 65, something like that, so that I was like about eight years old, maybe less. That was the first time I met my father.
Q: What was it like when you met him?
WING: Oh, very exciting. In the Hong Kong’s Airport, at that time. Now, it’s, I’ve heard they have another, bigger airport now, so, at that time, it’s like dreaming, you know? It’s sort of very common at that time in the Chinese family, because parents, especially the father, usually they have to go out to work. It’s difficult to make a living in China at that time, so we usually stay home, and father work outside China, in Hong Kong, or in some other Southeast Asian countries, at that time Southeast Asian countries have a better economy than China. So they work there, and then they send money back to China. That’s very, very, usual at that time. But after we went to Hong Kong, we met each other, so we were, sort of, closer to each other. And we are lucky. A lot of people they don’t---they are not like us, they probably did not see their father for many, many years. It’s very, very possible.
How did you feel then, when he had to go back to the Philippines,
after you had met him for the first time?
WING: You mean, my father? Well, you know, at that time, I knew that he would come back in about another ten, twelve months, so you know, there’s a hope there, which is better than the first time that I had seen my father, eight years ago, which is too long.
Q: So, when you were getting ready to come to college in the United States, what were your expectations like about what your life here would be?
WING: I did not expect a very easy life, which I prepared for it already. I knew that to go to a new environment, to go to new place, you have to start all over again---it’s not easy. Which I managed to handle everything correctly, and because I was brought up in a family that had a very good---my family is very strict. My mother and mother they did not allow me to do this and do that. We are not in a Catholic family, but some of the Chinese way of teaching the kids, I think they are good in certain ways. I’m not saying that they’re 100 percent okay, but at least I was influenced by those thoughts. And I use the same thoughts that my parents taught me to teach my kids now. I don’t know whether they accept my teaching or not, but I at least I do the same thing now.
Q: Is there anything you do different now, than what your parents did?
WING: Oh, yeah. Because the kids now is a lot different from---the time is different. A lot different from what we were before. So it’s like, sort of they have more freedom than what we had before. Freedom in a way that my parents say something at the time, we could not say now. They could now. They can say no, to us. Which, you know, I have a very open mind. I am not like a very, too strict like my parents. But I still let them know that some Chinese way of educating and teaching the kids, the way that we are teaching them, is better than the Westerners. But I would say not 100 percent --- at least, passed down through our ancestors to now---has been proven to be good, so I think some of them they accept it, some of them they do not because they thought that’s, that’s ridiculous, that’s what they thought. I know (laughs) they think it that way.
Q: Can you give me some examples of things you do that part of the Chinese way of raising children?
WING: We punish them, we will punish them, like what you call---this country does not allow to do that. We hit them. We use the, what they call the ruler or something to hit their butts. That’s what we usually do. But, we try not to do that, because we thought that that wasn’t that good either. To me, personally, that’s not good. But at least, we had to let them know we have that kind of penalty for the kids before. But they thought that’s ridiculous. And we were not allowed to do that in this country. So I would say that sometimes you do need something like this to help the kids to understand rules and regulations.
Q: What are some other things? Can you think of any others?
WING: We teach them to pay respect to their elders, parents, grandparents, not only us, but people outside our families too. Which, in this country the educational system to me, personally I think that they do not teach this kind of moral thing than what we had before. They only teach them knowledges in terms of books, in terms of computers, in terms of mathematics, that’s it. They do not teach them how to live in the society, how to live with other people, how to face other people, that kind of thing. I don’t think they have enough education like what we had before.
Q: I wanted to ask you, when you were deciding to go to college here, were there any other options that you considered at that point, when you were finished with high school, besides going to college?
WING: No. I had a very strong will that I wanted to come to this country for college. That’s the only way---one way street. I never thought of other alternatives, because I love education, and I love coming to this country. Of all the countries in the world, I have considered, like Australia, New Zealand, England, Canada, I pick this country. I like this country better.
WING: I don’t know why. Because I have a feeling that this country has a better education than other countries, which, when I saw, when I read from newspapers about the Nobel Prize people, a lot of them are from this country, so I was very influenced by those articles in the newspaper.
Q: Were there any other things you remember seeing that made you think that maybe life in America would be for you?
WING: Yes, because at that time, as I said, because my family was so strict, I at that time was a teenager, I need freedom. I want to be free. But, I wanted to taste the freedom in this country also, which I experienced for many years. I know that freedom is something but you’ve got to make good use of the freedom. You just cannot abuse it. That’s another thing. I want to leave my family. I want to be free.
Did you abuse your freedom at all when you got here?
WING: No, not at all. I am a very self-disciplined person. When I say something, I will do it. When I promise somebody something, I will deliver the promise. That’s why I---well, probably this is the education from my family.
Q: Could you share some of your first impressions that you had when you came here?
WING: First impressions?
Q: The first day that you got here.
WING: Oh, the first day I got here. At that time, we stayed in Chinatown. And when I know America, this country on TV, on newspaper, it wasn’t like that. There’s a lot of high-rise buildings, you know. It’s a very advanced country. How come the buildings in this country is so old, and a lot of the buildings are like---we didn’t even have that in Hong Kong. We had better living conditions than a lot of the buildings here, a lot of the apartments here. And, it was like, to me it’s like a totally different thing as what I have read in the paper or on the TV, so it was not a good impression to me when I first came here. But after I find out that a lot of the buildings had been---for so many years because of the zoning problems, because of the---a lot of restrictions, you’re not allowed to do anything. That’s why they keep the way it was.
But in Hong Kong it’s different. Buildings that they are older than 20 years, they knock down and build high rises, more space for people, so a lot of the buildings in Hong Kong are newer than here.
Q: Did you know anyone when you first came here?
WING: My sister was here at that time. I came here, I lived with my sister for a few months, then I moved to New Jersey because I studied in New Jersey.
Q: So your sister and her family and friends, did they give you any advice about what you’d have to do to make a life for yourself here? Do you remember any conversations you had with people when you first got here about Chinatown, or about life in the United States?
WING: At that time, when I first came to this country was 1976, there wasn’t too many Chinese at that time, as compared today. There’s like ten times more than ’76, so it was more quiet than what we have right now, less people than what we are right now. It’s not exactly like what we are right now. What I’m saying is, it’s not like Hong Kong. Now, it’s like 90 percent like Hong Kong. Before it’s like, it’s like Chinatown, really a Chinatown. A lot of things I’ve seen is very, very, funny as compared to same things that we had in Hong Kong. Many people still live in that way. It’s different from what I’ve seen in Hong Kong, so it’s very funny.
Q: Like what?
WING: The bowls are thicker. We had the very beautiful bowls that we would have the rice, to eat on. The bowls. They’re very thick, and it’s very Americanized. Something that, in daily life, that we use is different from what we are using in Hong Kong.
Q: So what was college like for you?
WING: Difficult. I work and study at the same time, and so, pretty tough to me. But I, as I say, I have a very self-disciplined for myself, so I manage to finish my college in three and a half years. I have no problem.
Q: What did your parents think about you doing coming here?
WING: When I told them that I’m coming to this country, they said okay. They give me permission to come here.
Did you keep in touch with them after you were here?
WING: Oh, yeah.
How did you keep in touch with them?
WING: I wrote them letters. At that time, telephone wasn’t that popular like what we have right now. It was very expensive to call international calls. It’s like three dollars per minute at that time. It’s very expensive. So, only call---I only call my parents on the phone during Chinese New Year’s, just once a year, because it’s too expensive. I write, I wrote them letters.
Q: Why did you choose engineering?
WING: I was a science student. In Hong Kong, when you are in Form Three, or Form Four, that’s tenth grade, you have to decide whether you go to arts or science. I picked a science subject, so that’s how I got into engineering field.
Q: Did you enjoy studying that?
WING: Oh, very much. I love engineering fields, I liked engineering courses. I was a mechanical engineer. I worked as a mechanical engineer for five years before I start my own business.
Q: So it sounds like you were very busy during college. When you did have a little bit of spare time, what did you do?
WING: I didn’t have much spare time. When I have spare time, I study, I work, I enjoy my college life very much. It was tough, but very rewarding to me, you know, because I got my degree, I find my job. Everything works out fine to me.
Q: Was there anything that surprised you, or that was unexpected about your life here?
WING: Like what? I---
Q: Anything, anything about you know, what American people were like, or what---school?
WING: In school, nothing surprised me. Actually, the first two year of the school, in the college, was not that hard to me, because a lot of the subjects I learned before in Hong Kong. The third year, we had the major subjects, that’s the year that’s the toughest year. Third year. Junior is the toughest year for me. Senior is a lot, is a bit easier, because the major subjects are what we studied before applied to the labs and everything, so Junior is the toughest year. A lot of new subjects to me that I never learned before. Mechanical engineering subjects. That’s the year that I spent a lot of time studying.
Other than that, nothing special. Nothing surprised me. But about my business, it surprised me that the government is not supporting the industry. They are using---I think they betrayed the industry because they used our industries to trade some other business or some other thing from other countries, like they are selling high-tech to other countries, and in returning they let them import the garment to the country. It’s good and no good, you know?
Q: So you’re married, is that right?
How did you meet your wife?
WING: I met my wife in Hong Kong. She---my wife is my brother-in-law’s niece. So we are, like, we knew each other when she was in Hong Kong, when we met each other. So, when she came to this country, then we met again and that’s how we got married.
Did you keep in touch before she came here?
WING: Very rare, because I was so busy, and I didn’t have time to---I only wrote letters to her like three times, and that’s it.
Q: Did she come here with the idea that you would get married, or did you sort of---
WING: No, she just came here, and then we met, and then, no we did not expect that at that time.
So what was it about her that made you want to marry her?
WING: Oh, my wife is a very strong-willed lady. She is pretty, she is nice, she is hard-working, she works together with me when we had a business together, and she almost like managed the whole business for me internally, so I have time to do externally.
Q: When you were working as an engineer, what kinds of work did you do?
WING: Design engineer. I worked in three different companies. The first company, called the CE-Lummus in Bloomfield, New Jersey. It’s a company that builds lots of petrol chemical plants, and I’m working in the mechanical engineering department of that company. And the next company I work for is a machine design company, designing spot welding machine. The third company I work for is a filter company. They make a lot of filters. It’s one of the largest filter company in this country, called the Pall Corporation, in Long Island.
Why did you switch from job to job?
WING: If you don’t switch, you don’t get paid better, at that time. You have to---either you have to find a job that pay you better, or, if you stay there, you don’t---the raise each year that they pay you cannot catch up with the job that you switch. If you switch a job, you get a better pay.
So then you opened your own business, after five years of working as
What led you to make that decision?
WING: When I had my third job, I was laid off by that company, and engineering was very good at that time when I was graduated from college. After wards, it just went down. Most of the engineering firms are laying off people, so I was one of them, so that’s why. I got laid off at that time, so I was without job for like about nine months. And during the nine months I drove, like, a black car—they call it the limousine---I drove a black car for nine months in order to make a living, you know. That was before I opened up my business.
Q: How did you get into---could you say a little bit about what kind of business it was?
WING: It’s a garment manufacturing business. I opened up a factory in Chinatown, and I hired like about, at that time, when I just started I hired about fifty, sixty people. And before I closed my business, I hired more than 100 people.
How did you get the capital to start a business?
WING: My brother-in-law helped me. He helped me---he was in the business at that time, in the garment business before me. And he started his business in 1977. I, when I got laid off, he said if I want to be in the business he would help me. So he gave me the capital to open up the business.
Q: What was the garment industry like at the time that you got into it?
WING: At that time, it’s a lot easier. When I say easier, it’s, there were not too many competitions from offshore. Everything you did was domestic. Not everything, I would say 95 percent are domestic. Only like rarely to from the imports. As compared of today, 99 percent are from imports. Only one percent are domestic. Maybe I’m exaggerate a little bit, but it’s close---it has to be very close to that.
Q: What sorts of things did you make?
WING: I make women’s clothing. Sportswear. Skirts, pants, you know, those are the items that I made. And I made those items for Sears, for JC Penny, for Wal-Mart or Kmart. A lot of big chain stores. And those big chain stores now they bought from offshore. So we’ve lost a lot of business domestically.
Q: Was it hard to find workers?
WING: In the beginning, yes, when I just started, in like, 85, it’s not easy to find workers, because not too many new immigrants. In the ‘90s, starting from the ’90s, when there are a lot of new immigrants coming from China, coming from Hong Kong, coming from a lot of Southeast Asia countries, then it’s a lot easier to find workers. What I mean, easier to find workers, doesn’t mean that you can find a good worker. Good worker is difficult to find still. Luckily, about 80 percent of my workers, when I closed down my business, they will stay with me. A lot of them are with me for more than ten years. They are very nice to me, and I’m very nice to them, too, I believe. (laughs) We had a very good relationship. Otherwise they would not stay with me for so many years.
Q: Could you tell me a little bit about the people who worked for you?
WING: Mostly ladies, because they are doing needleworks---
WING: ---a few men doing some kind of physical work. That’s why my wife is taking care of the inside work. It’s easier to let girls talk to girls, right? So I went outside and got the business.
Were your workers unionized?
WING: Yes. We were actually a union shop. All our workers are union members. We belong to, at that time it was ILGWU---International Ladies Garment Workers Union. Now it’s called UNITE, Local 23-25.
Did you ever have any problems, any labor problems, during that time
you had the business?
WING: Internally, no. Externally, yes. Not because of our workers, but because of the external problems, like the union problem, the, some kind of outside influence as, not because we had a problem, we never had a problem. I have---most of the time I have enough work for my workers, I pay them well, I pay them on time, I have no problem with them, and that’s why they’ve been with me for so many years. A lot of shops, not because they are not good, but because a lot of times they could not do the paperwork and everything accordingly, so a lot of the workers they may not like the shops. That’s why. I would say, 99 percent is the management of the business. If you manage your business well, everything’s fine. It doesn’t really matter you are union or non-union, or, you know, anything.
Q: So what do you think it was about your shop that made 80 percent of your workers stay with you?
WING: Stable. I have a very stable work supply for them, and I have, I pay them very stable. I don’t pay them like, this week something, next week something. Everything is like, on a very good track. So, if you have a good system, everybody will follow. That’s how I think.
Q: So what was an average wage? Do you remember what your workers would make when you first opened in the 80s?
WING: Let’s see, I have to think. At that time, in ’85, I believe the rate was three dollars something, I don’t remember exactly, and then four dollars something, and then---right now, it’s about six dollar ninety cents per hour or seven dollars, something like that. Don’t quote me, because I’ve been out of business for four years now. Probably now it’s about seven dollars an hour. Union rates. The federal rate is $5.15 an hour. State rate is $4.75.
Q: So you didn’t pay by the piece, but by the hour?
WING: We pay by the piece, but we convert the piece to hour, so they got paid more than that.
Q: Why did you end up having to close the business?
WING: I could not compete with the importers. Let me give an example. For a piece of, let’s say for a pair of pants like this. If I have to make it here, just the labor alone may cost you, let’s say, five dollars. If you buy a pair of pants from China, from Sri Lanka, from India, from whatever Southeast Asian country, five dollars is including everything, with the material. How can I compete with them? With us, just the labor alone is five dollars, so we have no way to compete with them. The only thing, the only reason that there’re still some shops still around because we have what they call the quick-response system. We can make something that the offshore people cannot do. Time. We have a shorter period of time to finish something that the manufacturers want us to do, which the offshore manufacturer could not do it. Like we can do it in something, two or three weeks, or even a week. If you do something offshore, you cannot make it in about three months. You know, so that’s the only advantage we have. That’s why there are still some shops around.
Q: You were president of the Garment Manufacturers Association---
WING: I was.
WING: Two times.
Q: How did that come about?
WING: It’s an association that gathers all the---our member actually is the shop owner. We have, like, every year we have a function, an annual dinner or gala, we exchange some information, and we have meetings every month, like I’m going to the meeting later on. They still have me as a board member because they want me to have some input to the Association, which I appreciate them.
But every year we had a fundraising, not actually a fundraising, we just get some money to maintain the association, and that’s it. We are not making money from that dinner or anything. And people are participating very well, every year. Even though, right now, the economy isn’t that good, they are still supporting the Association, because this is the only association in garment industry locally in our community. There were a few before, but they could not last like what we last. Our association is like, 45 years now.
Q: What were some of the things that you had to do as the president? What were some of your duties?
WING: We negotiate the contract every three years with the union. We try to get the best benefit to our association members, as well as the workers. It sounds like very contradiction, but it’s not. The reason being that the workers actually, we face them everyday. Even though they’re union members, we want to get the best benefits out of the union for them. And as an association president, we have like a lot of board members, then we have a negotiation team, to negotiate with the union every three years about the contract. And we go to some other association or some other states to get some resources back to New York. That’s what we’re doing.
Q: How would you do that?
WING: We have a lot of like Garment Industry Development Corporation. They have an office down on Centre Street. We work very closely with them, and even though we have a contract with a union, we work very closely for the union to try to get some work back from other states, or back from offshore, which did help a little, but not very successful because bottom line is price---we cannot compete with offshores. But at least they will give us something to do here, and if they need something very, like quick response, they would stay with us. They would not go to some other places.
Q: What sorts of things were you negotiating with the union over, during the time that you were president of the Garment Manufacturers Association?
WING: Mostly on the benefits for the workers and what the shop owners, our members--- Health benefit is the most important thing, because every member, every union member, that is, every worker in our shops, they need health benefit, which is getting more and more expensive, and they could not, a lot of their workers could not afford it. And now, a lot of the workers has to co-pay, which is a very heavy burden for them, which I, when I was president of the association, I tried to have the union make them not to do the co-pay, but very unsuccessful, and now they try to have the shop owner do the co-pay for them, which is very unfair to the shop owner either, because it’s very expensive overhead for the shop owners. We’re talking about, about two hundred some dollars a month per worker. It’s very expensive.
Where was your factory specifically located?
WING: Not too far from here. Located on Mott Street. Now the building has been converted to a medical building. Half of it, not the whole building. Because that building is like two buildings, but they have a big building by knocking down the walls years ago, it’s a very old building, and over 10,000 square feet per floor. I was on the third floor. Now they have half of the building became a professional building, and the other half is still garment manufacturing. And I don’t think they have any more lease, and they are only working like month to month.
Q: When you closed the business, what happened to the people who were working there? How did they react?
Some of my workers, they cried. They would never have thought of me
closing down the business, because I had been supplying a very stable
work source for them, so they, the money had been very stable for so
many years. They never thought of going out to work for some other
people. So, it was a tough time for a lot of the workers, too.
Q: Do you know what kind of work they were able to find afterwards?
WING: Afterwards, some of them work for other factories, some of them changed their professions to become, how do you put it, medical help or something like that, I don’t know what they call it, they have to be trained by the CPC (Chinese-American Planning Council) or Manpower, to become qualified for this job.
Q: Nurse practitioner?
WING: Something like yeah, home helper, or whatever, to help the seniors.
Do you ever see any of them?
WING: Oh, yeah. Even now, I met a lot of my previous workers on the street. And they still want me to open up again, but I say I cannot do it. Not because of me alone, just because of the economy, because of the competition, that we cannot compete with the offshores. So I couldn’t do it.
How did you decide that that was the moment when you needed to close
WING: At that time, when I closed my business, I still make money. I’m not losing money, but I figure out if I still want to do it, I make some projections. I will be losing money maybe in about six months. So I said if I keep on doing this for another six months I will be losing a lot of money. So I would rather do it now than six months later. So, which, I think I make a very good decision. Right now a lot of people are, a lot of the shop owners are crying for what they are doing. Not because they don’t have work. Sometimes they have work, but no workers. Sometimes they have workers, no work. It’s very difficult to make the adjustment.
What were your options, then, after you closed the factory?
WING: I was looking for some other business, but at that time, when I closed my business, it was in 1999, and the economy was going down. At that time, the economy wasn’t look good, I did not decide to do anything yet, so I like, stayed home for two years, did not do anything, I just see which is the right way for me to go to. Which business is going to be better for me to get into. So, about a year and a half, two years ago, I started to work again, but not business. I’m working for another business now. Liquor industry.
And what do you do?
WING: I was working as a sales rep for a distributor, but right now I’m working for a supplier.
And how did you pick that?
WING: I like liquor, cognac, very much. That’s how I got to know a lot of the people in the industry. And they referred me to some of the job openings over there. I find it a pretty interesting industry.
Q: You’ve been involved in the community in all different kinds of ways. You talked about being involved in the Garment Manufacturing Association. Could you talk about some of the other things that you’ve done?
WING: I was---when Speaker Peter Vallone was the councilman of New York City I was one of the Asian American Advisory Council member of Peter Vallone. The job of that is to bring messages from our community back to the City Council. Tell them what we expect the city council to do, and what we want and what we need from the city. This is one of the positions that I had when I was president of the association. And I happened to know of the Museum of Chinese in the Americas, and I find it is very educational and very good for the next generation to know about the Chinese heritage, and so I you know, support this Museum of Chinese in the Americas as well.
When you were on the Asian American Advisory Committee for Peter
Vallone, what sorts of issues were you dealing with? What sorts of
messages did you bring to him?
WING: I remember at that time there was some street cleaning problem that we tried to bring it to the city, and some parking meter problem, because a lot of parking, there are, like, no place for the people to park in Chinatown, that will cause a lot of people not to come to Chinatown and have a lot of tourists not coming to Chinatown. So we tell the city to give us a lot of, more parking space, more people to direct the traffic, to make it easier for the people to come to here, and help the restaurant and help the other business to grow in Chinatown. That’s all. You know, most of the issues of the community.
Q: And were you successful in getting what the neighborhood needed?
WING: Sort of, yes. Pretty good. Like before, I would say before 1995 or something like that, Canal Street they allow to have people park there, and blocking the traffic. Yes. Now no more. You are not allowed to park on Canal Street. Even after seven o’clock. Which is good, I would say, because you can have a lot of traffic flow thoroughly, not staying there and polluting the whole community.
Q: You were also on the Community Board. Is that right?
WING: That was in 1993, I remember. I was on the CB Three, Community Board Three for about two years.
Q: And what was that experience like?
WING: We had vender problems, venders, you know the people that are selling, the, what they call the---a lot of the, maybe the souvenir on the streets so we want to group them together and put them in Roosevelt Park---is it Roosevelt Park? Yeah---and, but very unsuccessful, because they only been there for like about a few months, and then they have to be relocated or, so, I feel there is very too much politics involved, so I quit. I cannot tell them---I told them what it is; I hope they can follow my way of doing it, but I find out that it’s not that simple. Something that we cannot just say and they will do it, so I will say, it’s not something I can manage, so I quit and I’m not going to be a member anymore.
So on the day of September 11, 2001, where were you? How did you find
out what happened?
WING: I was home. That morning, I was trying to drive to work, and before I left, my sister called me. She said, “There is a plane hit the World Trade Center.” I said, “What?” And I turn on the television. I saw the smoke coming out from one of the towers that was hit, and then I watch the TV for like a few minutes---another plane, hit, hit the building. It’s like watching a movie, but it’s real. There was something that have a very big impact to me, because World Trade Center is like a landmark of our city. And I’ve been like New Yorkers, and I love New York. It’s like something that---I could not believe it, so--- I almost cried, you know? It’s like something I cannot accept. Two days, I watch TV, I didn’t go to work. Like, you don’t know what you’re doing, you know? It’s very, very, upset.
What were you thinking about as far as Chinatown as you were watching
WING: The first thing I did was, I called a lot of friends in Chinatown. Tell them to leave as soon as possible. Because I have a lot of friends, they are working in Chinatown. A lot of friends that still have business in Chinatown. I tell them, don’t stay here, go home. I know there’s something---if something like this happen, it is terribly wrong. So, luckily, in the beginning, the phone still working. But after awhile, the phone was not working, and then, only the cell phone was working, and after a while---even the cell phone is not working! So it’s very, like, to me it was like the end of the world at that time. Very frustrating, very, very upset. A lot of my friends, they could not get home on time, they had to stay in Manhattan for like another day before they could go to their home. It’s like, Chinatown was like totally paralyzed. Not only Chinatown, but even up to, the whole Manhattan, whole New York, even the whole country, for that two day was like doing nothing.
Q: You have children, right?
WING: I have two children.
Two children. How did you explain to them what had happened? How did
they find out about it?
WING: Oh, they knew it through school. School, I think they have television, and the teacher, you know, tell them what happened.
How did they feel about it?
WING: First they---I don’t really know how they feel, but what I know is the kids are very patriotic to the country. That’s what I understand.
What do you mean by patriotic?
WING: Patriotic to the country? What I mean is like my son, he is very Americanized. He’s like, you know, everything is USA, so that’s why, it’s very, it’s a lot of impact to these kids, too, because it’s something they’ve been seeing, they’ve been there before, and now no more. I would say the kids are also very upset about that too.
Do you feel patriotic?
So you mentioned that your son was feeling very patriotic, or is a
patriotic person. How about you, are you patriotic?
WING: Yes. But when I just came to the country, and I, to me, it’s---everything was new to me, but as time goes by, I’ve been in this country for so many years. I’ve been like, personally I’ve felt that I already naturalized to this country, and that’s why I think---and I’m an American citizen now, so I think I am a patriotic person. But I don’t know if the country look at it to me that way too, you know? I don’t think they think it that way. But, I don’t know. But as far as I’m concerned, I think I am very patriotic to the country.
When you say that you’re not sure if the country thinks of you
as patriotic, what do you mean by that?
WING: Because, well, as I said, this is an immigration country. Everybody, except the Indian, the red Indian, they are the domestic local people. Everybody came from outside countries, like Irish, Scotland, England, or European country, Asian country, everybody come from all different places. But the people that control this country now, they---only controlled by a small group of people. Whatever they think is right, is right, is wrong is wrong. So, of course, I think it’s more up to them to think whether you are really a patriotic person or not. It is not up to what I think. It is up to them. That’s what I mean.
Q: Did September 11 effect or change the way you feel patriotic at all?
WING: It make me more patriotic than before. Because I think they should not---I mean, the people that they attack the World Trade Center, they should not do that. This is nothing to do with the innocent people. If you are not agree with the government, you fight with the government, not with the innocent people, which I think it’s just very, very, wrong, very, very bad thing that they have been done.
You own real estate in Chinatown also, is that right?
How did you first start getting into that?
WING: Because I want to diversify my investment, to begin with, so when I was in my garment industry business, I tried to diversify my investment in real estate in Chinatown, and at that time I did not have any, like intention, or anything like---just wanted to do some investment, that’s all. And I found out that right now that prove that to be a very good investment, because all the real estate has been growing tremendously in the last two-three years, especially in early 2000, the year 2000. It’s like booming. And right now it’s still good, but not as good as like a year ago. As far as the rental concerned, after 9/11 I was totally affected by the incident of 911. Because all my tenants moved out gradually, and my building was like vacant for more than twenty months. And little by little, I had my new tenants back, and right now, I only have 60 percent of my building rent. I still need more tenants. But I still have to pay my real estate tax, I still have to pay my---everything. I applied for some assistance from the government. All I got is about six thousand dollars. Not even one month of my mortgage payment. I pay my mortgage like about twelve thousand dollars a month.
Where did you apply for the assistance?
WING: I applied through the one on Williams Street. I forgot the name of it. There are two places where you can do some application. One is on Williams and one is on Rector (Street). I did it through the Williams Street.
Q: How did you hear that you might---that the government, or that different organizations, were giving out aid?
WING: There are a lot of non-profit organizations, they give out brochures, they had some information that they give out on radio, on Chinese radio too. So I called and find out I am qualified for this. So I went to get an application and applied for it. But I didn’t know that, that’s the only, only like six thousand I got for over twenty months suffering.
How did they come up with that figure?
WING: They said two percent of my income. That’s how they got that figure.
When you went to apply for the aid, what was the place like, were
people friendly and helpful, or was it really difficult to get
through the paperwork?
WING: They were very friendly, very helpful. But the only thing is, the decision, and the amount of money to be qualified for who, and for what, you know, that’s not decided by those people. That is decided by somebody else. And by looking at those applications, you don’t really know whether these people are really the sufferers or not. That’s what I thought. I told them that I lost a lot of income because of that, and they only say that because you are not---as a landlord, you are not really a business over there, I thought, that’s wrong, because I do business in the real estate business, this is business. They said it’s not. So, they said only qualify for about two percent of my total annual income. That’s how they got the figure.
Q: I have to change the tape.
Q: You were talking about the aid that you got after September 11. I’m curious---the friends that you have in Chinatown, business people that you know or individuals, what sorts of stories have you heard about being trying to get aid?
WING: Not that many, because I wasn’t involved too much about this, but I heard the people that they live in this area, residents, they get more than I got, as a business person. I don’t know how they justify it, who is going to get more or less or how much. I really don’t understand how they get a figure like this, and for our business, and, that you lost in this period of time. We are not asking for more---we are just asking for, like, for example the real estate tax---I just want them to give me like some time to pay. I paid, like about two weeks late; they charged me the interest for two hundred dollars and change. They still charge me for that. Not because I don’t want to pay, but because I had a hard time to pay at that time. I have no tenants, and I have to get the money from someplace else. Out of my own pocket. So it took me a while to, you know, to do this. It was like a very hard period of time for me at that time.
Now it is a lot better, because I have my new tenants over there, and everything works out okay. At least I don’t have to lose money. I’m breaking even now. But I got to make up something that I lost for the twenty months that I have my building vacant at that time. So it’s very, very difficult. I hope the government can do something to those business owner in the area. And I’m from south of Canal, which is the secondary major damage area. And there is something that I don’t understand which is I don’t understand why they don’t give us, like my new tenants, give us some leeway or some assistance to my new tenants, because my new tenants are opening up a business over there, and they have to go to Department of Building to apply a lot of license, or you know, doing the renovations, things like that, and the Department of Building they give them a lot of hard time. I really don’t understand why they do that. They are bringing business to this area, and make it prosperous again. And they try to give them hard time---what kind of a psychological thinking is that, you know? I think this is too bureaucratic. That’s it.
You’ve been involved in politics before, and you know, trying
to get the community’s concerns heard by the
government. Did you ever consider complaining, or
trying to change the way they were dealing with the aid?
WING: I don’t think I, as a person, can do anything about it. But I did talk to a lot of non-profit organization people, that I know of, but it doesn’t seem to be like any successful. I only just talked to them, you know. I just talked to them about if cases like what I have maybe a lot of people, have a very similar situation like what I have, so what should we do? Nobody could give me an answer.
Who did you talk to?
WING: I talked to people from CPC, you know, those local non-profit organization. They supposedly have to help those local community people.
Q: Who were your tenants before September 11?
WING: Before September 11 I had people---my tenant, one of my tenants is Pearl Paint, they use my place as a office and warehouse, and I have a second and third floor was garment industry, garment factory.
WING: And now, my first floor is a restaurant and bar. Second floor in a training center. Ironically, it’s a place for people to get job re-training, after the effect of the 9/11. This is the institute that you have to go to. One of the institutes. And the third floor is artists that is making sculptures, those sorts of things, for big companies.
Q: How do the rents compare?
WING: About the same that I rent before, because the situation wasn’t that good. If I insist to get more rents, I don’t think I would rent it out today. So I lower my rent like tremendously. A little bit better than before. That’s all. But I give them a lot of free rents, a lot of---many months. Like, some of them I give them like six, seven months free rent, in order to get them to stay here. You have to do something, otherwise, I don’t have any advantage.
Q: What kind of a restaurant is it that’s opening?
WING: The owner is three partners. One of them from India, one from Turkey, and the other one, I never seen them. He is in Florida, and he is in garment importing business. (laughs) So they are opening a restaurant and bar over there, because that’s the area I think it’s very good for the, they call it TriBeCa, it’s very good for the yuppies, to stay, hanging around after work, and happy hours. So I think it will be helping the area to become more prosperous again.
Because right now, right after 9/11 was like a dead city, nobody wants to go there. Now, people start to, little by little, going back to the TriBeCa area again. I can see that, you know? And during the off hour, like from five to seven, a lot of people kind of stopping by a bar, having a drink, or have something to eat over there, very good, you know the environment is getting better and better. That’s why I think the Housing Department has to give the tenants not only mine, the people who want to do business over there, some kind of help, and not give them too much hard time.
And where exactly is that building?
WING: I’m sorry?
And where exactly is that building?
WING: The building is on 52 Walker, two blocks south of Canal. (coughs)
Want some water?
WING: No, I’m fine. Probably because of the air.
What do you think the government or non profits could have done
better, to help the people in Chinatown and businesses in Chinatown
after September 11?
WING: I don’t want to have any offense to anybody, but they could have done a lot better job than this. There’s a lot of money out there for, to help the people, for people that has been suffered from 9/11, but I don’t think the money has been allocated correctly. A lot of the money has been wasted, and a lot of the money has been sitting there, doing nothing. Because---I don’t know, whatever reason, either bureaucratic, or something, they just do not want to give it out. That’s why, by the end of the deadline, they want to rush the money out to whoever that is qualified, even though they are really not qualified.
Something like, in my situation, I think I should get at least something to compensate, or some kind of grants, or some kind of, you know, loans or something, to help me for this hard period of time, but I didn’t get anything. Or, I get something, but it’s not enough for me to maintain a month, so from my own opinion is they should really do something more personal, instead of just give them a very brief review and they giving out the money. I don’t think that’s correct. And I heard a lot of cases, a lot of instances that they have to get the money back from the people that they gave it to, which is something that they did not do in the right place to begin with.
The first phase was giving out aid to people. Now there’s all
this money coming into New York for reconstruction. If you had some
of that money to use in Chinatown, what would you do?
WING: For the community?
WING: To improve the business, you have to do something like advertising and make to clean up the streets, to direct the traffic better, and have all the restaurants, all the business people to participate. A lot of campaigns: this month is for restaurant, this month is for banking, or this one is for finance, or you know, different business center has a special for a month, right? And I don’t think you have to spend a lot of money to do something like this, because those business people, if they participate, I think they will be very willing to give some money too. So between the government, and the business, and the community people, they can participate into the program with the help of the non-profit organization, I think they can do a good job. Each month have something different for the whole year, and then have some advertising, not only to attract the local people, but to attract tourists from out of state, even out of the country. It would help to boom up the---not only in this area, but the vicinity area as well, like Wall Street. Less and less people come into New York because of the tax, because of the instance of 9/11. You have to bring back the people to come to this area, to this city. Right after 9/11 the hotel rate was so low, now it’s slightly picking up again.
But before 9/11 the hotel rate was very good. I heard they were booking like over 90 percent in the whole city, so you see the difference. And between that 9/11, the two years, a lot of business went, out of business, a lot of restaurants or some other business, they are totally gone. Now, you give them a chance to come back again, you give them a chance to do business again. You need to help them. I think the city, the federal, the state, they should do something, not only to New York, Chinatown, but to the whole city.
Do you think there are any organizations, or even any individuals in
Chinatown who could organize or lead or advocate for something like
WING: It’s---I believe it’s not individual, or one organization or two organizations to do it. It’s a group effort. Everybody has to participate.
Q: I was asking you about who in Chinatown could possible lead or organize an effort to do some redevelopment or whatever, and you’re saying it has to be a group effort.
WING: Yes, but, I’ve got to add something with the two largest organization. Not non-profit, but they are the community organizations. One is called the CCBA (Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association), and the other one is the American Fujianese Association. These are the two biggest community associations in Chinatown. And they have a lot of influence to many people here. And I think they should do the lead of the functions that we just mentioned.
Would you ever consider getting involved with something like
WING: If possible, yeah. I’d be involved, not a problem. I would do my best.
I remember you talking in the first interview we did about how a lot
of the people who were here when you first came were here to make
money and get out and weren’t really involved in the community.
You, who came
at that time,
have done all kinds of community work. What is it about you that
makes you get involved in that way?
WING: A lot of people they don’t live in this community. They only work here. They only make money from the community, and then they leave. I’ve been living in the community for many, many years, and before I move, the reason I move is because I need my kids to live in a better environment. Just me and my wife, we didn’t care about that really. I live in Chinatown for more than fifteen years. And then, I believe that if you are making money from a community, not only here, whatever community that you’re living in, you should give back something to the community, in terms of money, in terms of work, in terms of charitable functions or anything, anything that you can possibly think of, I think you should do something, work something, pay back to the community, because what you are making, the money is from the community, so this is, as I said before, something like our education from Chinese way. You do something you’ve got to pay back something to, you know, whoever helped you.
Q: Why do you think Chinatown hasn’t gotten the same amount of money or attention as other neighborhoods that have been effected by September 11?
WING: They did not get as much money like the other neighborhood? I really don’t know, but I think probably there are too many chiefs, no Indians. Too many people applied for the same money, and nobody like of the leader of the community to do the same thing. So it’s not focused enough. Too many people doing the same thing. They just can’t give the money to---certain money to this association. They’ve got to give it to all of them. So that is why the money is like spread out.
Can you talk a little bit more about some of the reasons why you
aren’t so actively involved in politics now as you were in the
WING: At that time, I was in the business, and I thought, I hoped that politicians, politics and business, should go hand in hand in order to make your business better, in order to make your community better, in order to help the people in the community better. Yes. Sometimes they will help. But a lot of politicians they change every four years. Sometimes they can help you, but after four years, they can’t do anything, because they are not in the position anymore. So it makes me very frustrated sometimes.
Like I was the advisory council member of Speaker Vallone before, now Speaker Vallone is no longer with the city council. So whatever that we built up before is waste. So I think it’s like very difficult to have a good follow through thing to make the community better. So if you have to do something like this you have to have like a group of people, professionals to do it full time. It’s a full time job. It’s not something that we are doing it part time, can manage or can achieve for the community.
Did you find that politicians, while they were in office, were
responsive to the needs of Chinatown?
WING: It depends on the individuals. Some do, some don’t. Some politicians are good. Some politicians they are only looking for votes and money. Some politicians they really do the job. I would say it all depends on individuals.
Q: I wonder if you could think of any specific examples of challenges that you faced, or that you saw in getting involved in politics and getting your voice heard that way?
WING: Like what?
Q: Any specific instances where there was something that you, or an organization that you were working for were trying to achieve and weren’t able to.
Q: What were some of the obstacles? What was hard about it?
WING: We had a hearing in City Council about the garment industry, about five years ago. I was involved. As a matter of fact, I was one of the speakers. Our executive director, me, and president at Brooklyn Apparel Association, a good friend of ours. We had a hearing at City Council, talking about the garment industry effecting the economy, and everything, to the community.
And we make this arrangement through a city councilman, Jerome O’Donovan. He was the councilman from Staten Island, and he used to be committee chair of economic development for the city council; that’s why we want him to do something for us, which, he is a very responsive person, that he respond to us, and he arrange a hearing for us. We appreciate that. And I don’t know whether it will help to other government officials to understand more of what we say, but at least we did something. This is one of the major things that we achieved.
Can you think of any instances where you weren’t able to
achieve what you were trying to do, or you weren’t able to get
a response from politicians?
WING: This is not, one or two politicians can help. This is like, something that I think the decision by the top country people, like, maybe the congressman, or maybe the senators, that they make all these decisions. So whatever that we said, or whatever that we told them during the hearing, they just used it as a record. And, you know, the people that make the decision when they look at it, they may only not agree with what we have been saying to them, so I don’t know whether it helps or not, but at least we did something to get their attentions----that’s all we want to do, that’s all. I know it’s difficult to get their attention, but at least we did something right.
Q: And when was it that you did that?
WING: About five years ago, at City Council.
What do you think the future of the garment industry in Chinatown
WING: There is no future in this industry at all. What I mean is, because there is no comparison between the labor price in this country and the labor price in all the South American, Caribbean, Asian countries. We cannot compete with them. There will be less and less people working in the industry, domestically. There will be more and more people working for importers. So, I would say this is like a sunset industry. There will be still some people staying in the business. As I said before, the reason why they stay is because they need people to do domestically for some quick turn-around goods. So, maybe five percent of what we have right now.
I know that the garment industry has been for a long time sort of the
backbone of the Chinatown economy. What do you think will fill that
void, what do you think will happen to Chinatown? How’s it
going to change?
WING: Well, Chinese people are very flexible. They have the garment industry, they work for the garment industry. If the garment industry’s gone, they will do something else. I don’t see any problem. But the only thing is, they need some---in transition state, they need some help from the government, to, let’s say, as I said, like the other professions, they need some kind of a training in order to get the license or whatever to go to the other professions. I think, we will survive, but it will be better for them to survive if the government can give them a little bit of help.
Q: What other kinds of help do you think the government might be able to give, besides training?
WING: Create more jobs, you know. Let’s say, if there are some other industry that they need to help from the government, help them. For example, the tourist industry. This is one of the main sources of income for the whole community. So, give them a little bit of help. Give them a little promotion. I think, you know, if you have more tourists come to New York, we pay more tax to the government, so it’s like, it’s not a one-way street, it’s a two-way street. The government will make something, and the people will make something, so I think it’s a good idea.
Q: We were talking a little bit before about patriotism, and what it means to be patriotic, to you, and I’m curious, as an immigrant, during a time when immigration sort of had a bad name, or there were a lot of changes in immigration policy in the United States, making it harder for people to come here, did you feel that any of those public sentiments impacted on you, personally?
WING: Oh, yeah. Even though I’m a citizen, I think we are like a secondary citizen. We are not like the same level of a citizen as those people that originated in this country, or they were born in this country, because we are naturalized. At least, from what I think is our education, from Chinese education, telling us that if the country did something to you, you have to be, you know, good to the country. I’ve been getting an education from this country, and I think I’ve learned a lot and I got a lot from this country, I need to pay back to the country. That’s what I think patriotism is.
Did you ever feel, sort of, less welcome after September 11, when
people were feeling---I think America felt a little bit more closed
right after that, to some people. Did you feel that at all?
WING: Yes. They are more---closer than before, and people are like more willing to help each other than before. Especially right after 9/11. The NYPD people, they are much, much nicer than before. I had a feeling, they don’t just give out summons and like that. They will let you go, sometimes. It’s like a thing, a feeling and environment that you never had here before. Never! At that time, it’s like people are very willing to help each other. People can do whatever people want. There is no boundaries between ethnic groups. At that time, it’s like one of the best times, in terms of human relationships.
Q: How about since then, has that changed at all?
WING: Changed back to the before 9/11 environment. Well, at least we know that all human beings can do something like what I said before. It’s not something that they were born to that.
Q: Have you ever thought about running for public office? For elected office?
I don’t think I’m qualified for that. It’s good to
give a lot of advices or a lot of my opinion to the elected
officials. I don’t think I can be one of the officials to run
the---you know, I’m not interested in that.
Q: Have you ever supported particular campaigns, or particular---?
WING: A few. We supported quite a few City Councilmen. We support (Governor George E.) Pataki when he, second term, when he ran for the governor, we support councilwoman Kathryn Freed our local councilwoman, when she ran for councilwoman, and when she ran for, what was the position, I forgot---public advocate. She lost. This time, she ran for one of the judges. I don’t know whether she won or not, but I vote for her. I believe she won. Another one is Jerome O’Donovan. We supported him financially, because we are not in the district, and we supported Mark Green, when he ran for mayor. What else? We supported (Rudolph W.) Giuliani, and we supported (David Norman) Dinkins.
When you say, “we” who are you talking about?
WING: Our association.
The Garment Manufacturers Association?
WING: Yes. Because I am not doing those jobs as an individual. We did it as a group of people.
Q: I remember you saying before that you had had some experience as part of the Garment Manufacturers Association in talking to politicians and deciding who to support and trying to let them know what your concerns were. Could you talk a little bit about those experiences now?
WING: Yes. When, I believe it was in 1986, was it ‘80? That’s the term that Dinkins running for the mayor position. There is another gentleman, he was the head of the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) before---I forgot his name. We supported him to run for the mayor. But he lost in the primary. The reason why we supported him is---ah, I remember his name: Dick Ratrich. Richard Ratrich. He ran for the position, our whole association supported him. He is a person that nobody know him at that time. But he was the head of the MTA before, commissioner of the MTA. We don’t know why we support him, because our president before, the former president, he said he is a guy that can help our community, he can help the voice of our community, if elected as a mayor, he will help us, that’s what he said.
At that time, I’m just like a new guy, in the political---I don’t know what I’m doing. But we supported him anyway. And, he lost but we had a very good experience, we know that if we want to support somebody, we have to be in a group, not as an individual. That’s the experience that we had. It was very successful, though, even though we lost.
In what way was it successful?
WING: We had fundraising for him, and like over 800 people turn out. Which is very good. That means, we had our ability to arouse the attention of the community, which is one of the things that we learned at that fundraising. And from then on, we know better how to do a fundraising, and how to choose candidates to support.
What do you think that the government could do right now to support
the garment industry?
WING: It’s difficult. Because they already did something that cannot be changed. It’s like a one-way street. You cannot go back. For example, the government had the NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, they already have that, that hurt our industry. They have, what they call the 806-807 agreement, it’s between the Caribbean and this country. It’s cut in this country and make over there. So it’s also had a very bad impact to our industry.
So something like that they already did, and they already had this kind of agreement with a lot of countries. In return they have some other trade with them, for high-tech or for computers or whatever. But, I think if they want to help this industry, right now I think they have to at least give some percentage back to the people to do in this country. So that they can have better employment for a lot of people. This industry helps employ, when they are in peak time, over a million people in the city. Directly and indirectly related to the industry. Over a million people. Right now, maybe a hundred thousand, two hundred thousand? A lot less than before. Many big manufacturers, they went out of business. They were very, very, big before, but they are nobody now. It’s sad, but that’s the way history---it’s like a history. That’s the trend, of the history
Some industry goes down, some industry goes up, you know.
I’m trying to think if there’s anything else we haven’t
touched on. Is there anything that you would like to add?
WING: Just now you said how the government can help industry. We are not asking for a lot, we are asking for maybe five percent. If there is five percent, there will be enough for a lot of employment.
Q: A five percent increase in---?
WING: Not increase, maintain five percent of the, let’s say, a hundred percent for the import. A hundred percent, five percent. Bring it back to this country. Bring it back to New York. We will employ over a hundred thousand people. I’m serious.
Q: I remember one thing that you had said before that I wanted to bring up again, about the fact that so many people in Chinatown can’t vote, or don’t vote, and how that’s one of the challenges.
WING: There are a lot of people, as I said before, they work in Chinatown, but they don’t live here, so they don’t have rights to vote, maybe they have a right to vote in the place that they live. And a lot of people they registered to become a voter, but they don’t vote. I don’t know why. It’s probably because of the, the Chinese---historically we do not want to deal with the government. The Chinese people are very conservative. They do not want to deal with the government because they thought when you are alive, you don’t want to deal with the government. When you are dead, you don’t want to go to hell. Something like that, you know. So they don’t want to deal with the government. They thought if you deal with the government, something bad must be happen to you. Either you go to jail or you go to trial, something like that. That’s why they thought it’s a different country than China. This is a democratic country, and they never have time to adjust to this system yet. So that’s why you need a little education, and I think maybe in a few more years they will be more and more alert about this, and they already got a lot of information from some of the associations, some of the non-profit associations, too, like the CCBA, like the Fujianese Association, they give them a lot of education about why vote, something like that.
Q: Do you see the attitudes changing at all yet?
WING: Not much, but gradually, I would think so, because the second generation will have a different point of view than the first generation.
One more question. I remember you said a little while ago that you
thought the CCBA and the Fujianese Association were two organizations
that might take the lead in organizing some development efforts in
Chinatown. Do you think they could work together?
WING: Yes, why not?
Q: Do you see any challenges in their cooperating?
WING: Maybe there are some conflicts between them politically, because one is supporting Taiwan and one is supporting the mainland China. Their political ideas are different. But if you are working for the benefits of the community, I think they have the same goal. I don’t see any problem.
Okay. Is there anything else you would like to add?
WING: Basically, you have covered everything.
Q: Well, thank you very much, for taking the time to come in and do this with us.
WING: Thank you. I don’t know if I’ve been any help to you.
Q: Oh, I think you’ve been a great deal of help. This will be very useful to a lot of people now and into the future.
WING: I hope so. I don’t know---
(end of interview)
Chinatown Interview: Interview (zh)
<p>WING﹕我的名字是WING Ma。實際上﹐我的中文名字還有Guo Kua。我們習慣把姓放在前面---所以是Ma WING Guo﹐我的姓的意思是“馬”---“Ma”就是“馬”的意思﹐“WING”是“永遠”的意思﹐“Guo”是國家的意思。</p>
<p>WING﹕工程設計﹐我在三家公司做過。第一家公司叫作CE-Lummus﹐在Bloomfiled 新澤西州。他們建造很多石油化工設備﹐我是在那個公司的機械工程部工作。我工作的第二家公司是搞機器設計的﹐設計焊接機器。我工作的第三家公司是生產過濾器的﹐他們製造很多的過濾器﹐是美國最大的過濾器廠家之一﹐叫作Pall Corporation﹐在長島。</p>
<p>WING﹕有。我們實際上是個工會組織﹐所有的工人都是工會成員。我們隸屬于﹐當時是叫ILGWU---International Ladies Garment Workers Union。現在叫UNITE﹐Local 23-25。<br>
<p>問﹕您曾是服裝製造商協會的主席(the Garment Manufacturers Association)﹖</p>
<p>問﹕您在做服裝製造商協會(the Garment Manufacturers Association)主席時和工會主要談判些什麼事項﹖</p>
<p>WING﹕後來﹐他們有些去其他衣廠做了﹐有些改了行﹐做了類似于醫務助理的工作等。我也不知道準確的稱呼是什麼﹐他們必須接受CPC（中美規劃處Chinese-American Planning Council）或人力部門(Manpower)的培訓才能合格上崗。</p>
<p>問﹕您同社區在很多方面都有緊密的聯繫﹐您剛剛提到過在服裝製造商協會(the Garment Manufacturing Association)擔任職務。您能否談一下您做過的其他的事情嗎﹖</p>
<p>WING﹕當Peter Vallone議長還是紐約市議員的時候﹐我是他亞美顧問理事會(the Asian American Advisory Council)的成員。我的職責是將社區的一些情況反映到市議會﹐
告訴他們我們希望市議會做些什麼﹐我們需要些什麼﹐以及我們需要市裡做些什麼。這是我在任協會主席期間擔任的眾多職務之一。我湊巧知道美中華人博物館(the Museum of Chinese in the Americas)﹐我認為這個博物館比較有教育意義﹐有助于我們的下一代了解中國的文化﹐所以﹐我也在支持這個博物館。</p>
<p>問﹕您在Peter Vallone的Asian American Advisory Committee任職的時候﹐主要處理些什麼事務﹖您都向他反映了什麼情況﹖</p>
<p>WING﹕基本上是﹐還不錯。比如﹐1995年之前﹐人們可以在Canal Street停車﹐以至于造成交通堵塞。現在基本上已經沒有了﹐現在Canal Street不准停車﹐即使在七點之後。這樣就對了﹐因為這樣很多交通流量可以暢通無阻﹐也避免了污染整個兒社區的環境。</p>
<p>WING﹕我在家裡。那天早晨﹐我正準備開車去上班。在我臨走之前﹐我姐姐打電話給我。她說﹕“有架飛機撞到世貿中心(World Trade Center)了。”我說﹕“什麼﹖”然後我打開了電視﹐我看到姐妹塔中的被撞的一座已經開始冒煙了。在我打開電視的幾分鐘之後﹐另外一架飛機也撞了上去。當時就好像在看電影﹐只不過這是真的。這對我的打擊很大﹐因為World Trade Center是我們城市的標誌。我像個紐約人﹐我喜歡紐約。所以﹐這簡直是難以置信﹐我都差不多哭了﹐實在是難以接受。在那之後﹐我在家裡呆了兩天看電視﹐沒有上班。就好像人不知道在做些什麼﹐非常非常沮喪。</p>
<p>WING﹕熱愛這個國家﹖我的意思是說﹐我的兒子非常美國化﹐美國是他的一切。這對他們來講也是一個很大的打擊﹐因為他們也曾經看到過World Trade Center﹐也去過那裡﹐現在卻已不復存在了。所以我的孩子對此也是非常傷心的。</p>
<p>WING﹕它使我變得比以前更加愛國﹐因為那些恐怖分子不應該襲擊World Trade Center﹐這與那些無辜的受害者沒有任何關係。如果他們反對政府的一些作法﹐他們應該去找政府﹐而不是無辜的人民。所以我認為他們這樣做是非常非常錯誤的。</p>
<p>WING﹕我通過Williams Street的一個機構申請的﹐我忘了叫什麼名字。一共可以向兩家機構申請﹐一家在Williams﹐另外一家在Rector Street。我是通過Williams Street的那家機構申請的。</p>
TAPE 002－2 SIDE</p>
<p>現在就好很多了﹐因為我有了新的房客﹐一切又步入了正規。至少我不會再賠錢﹐現在剛好持平。但是﹐我必須彌補我二十多個月房屋空閑的損失﹐這是很困難的。我希望政府能夠為這個地區的業主做些事情。我是在Canal Street以南﹐是第二大受重創的地區。我不明白他們為什麼不能給我們﹐比如那些新房客﹐一些便利﹐因為我的新房客在這裡營業需要去Department of Building申請很多的執照﹐或者需要裝修﹐但是Department of Building都不給他們提供便利。我實在是不明白為什麼他們會這樣。那些房客給這個地區帶來很多生意﹐使這裡更加繁榮﹐但政府還是不通融---真不知道他們是怎麼考慮的﹖我想他們實在是太官僚了。<br>
<p>因為在911之後﹐這裡就好像是一座死城﹐沒有人想來。現在﹐人們逐漸過來光顧這個地方﹐我都可以感覺到。在下班後﹐大約五點到七點鐘﹐很多人來酒吧喝酒或吃東西。這樣很好﹐你感覺到這裡的環境越來越好了。所以我認為Department of Housing應該給這些房客﹐不單單是我的﹐包括在這裡有生意的人﹐一些便利﹐不要給他們太多的限制。</p>
<p>WING﹕是的。但是﹐我要針對兩大機構再做些補充。他們不是非盈利機構﹐但他們是社區的組織。一個叫作中華公所CCBA (Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association)﹐另外一個叫作American Fujianese Association。他們是唐人街最大的兩個社區團體。他們在當地的影響力很大。我想他們應該牽頭舉辦我剛纔提到的那些活動。</p>
<p>WING﹕大約在五年前﹐市議會開了一次服裝業的會議﹐我也有參加。實際上﹐我是發言人之一。我們的行政主管﹐我﹐和Brooklyn Apparel Association的主席﹐也是我的一個好朋友﹐在市議會舉行了一次聽證會﹐討論服裝業對經濟和社區等的影響。<br>
最後﹐我們通過市議員Jerome O'Donovan做出了一些安排。他是來自Staten Island的議員﹐他曾任市議會經濟發展委員會主席﹐這就是為什麼我們請他為我們做些事情，他是個非常負責任的人﹐他回復了我們﹐並為我們安排了一次聽證會。我們很感激他。我不知道這是否有助于其他政府官員了解我們的想法﹐但至少我們做了些事情。這是我們成就的主要的一件事情。</p>
<p>WING﹕有一些。我們支持過很多市議員。在(Governor George E.) Pataki競選連任州長的時候﹐我們支持過他。在Kathryn Freed﹐我們當地的女議員﹐競選議員和公眾代言人的時候﹐我們也支持過她。但她沒有選上。這次﹐她競選法官。我不知道她能否被選上﹐但我投了她的票。我相信她選上了。另外一個是Jerome O'Donovan。我們給了他一些經濟贊助﹐因為我們不在那個區。在Mark Green競選市長的時候﹐我們也支持了他。還有誰﹖我們支持過(Rudolph W.) Giuliani和(Daivd Norman) Dinkins。<br>
<p>問﹕The Garment Manufactureres Association﹖</p>
<p>問﹕我記得您剛纔講過在您在Garment Manufactureres Association任職的時候和一些政府官員交涉﹐決定支持哪些人﹐以及向他們反映一些你們的實際問題。您能否再談一下您的那些經歷﹖</p>
<p>WING﹕好的。我記得在1986年﹐或者是80年代﹐Dinkins競選市長的時候﹐當時有個人曾擔任過MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority)的負責人---我不記得他的名字。我們支持他競選市長﹐但他在初選就落選了。我們支持他的原因是---我現在想起他的名字了﹕Dick Ratrich, Richard Ratrich。他競選的時候﹐我們整個協會都支持他。當時別人都不知道他這個人。但他曾是MTA的負責人﹐MTA的委員長。我不清楚我們為什麼支持他﹐但我們協會以前的主席說他可以幫助我們社區﹐可以替我們的社區講話﹐如果他當市長的話﹐他會幫助我們。</p>
<p>WING﹕這很難﹐因為現在很難改變他們已經做的事情。這就好像是單行路﹐你不能往回走的。比如﹐政府制定了NAFTA﹐北美自由貿易協定(the North American Free Trade Agreement)。他們已經制定了﹐這個協定損害了我們的產業。他們還有所謂的806-807協定﹐是美國和加勒比海國家制定的。這是犧牲美國的利益以使別的國家受益。所以﹐這也使我們的產業受到重創。</p>
<p>TAPE 002-2 SIDE B</p>
<p>WING﹕正如我先前所講﹐很多人在唐人街做工﹐但不住在唐人街﹐所以他們沒有選舉權利﹐也許他們在他們住的地方有選舉權。有很多人做了選民登記﹐卻不參加選舉﹐我不知道為什麼。這也許是因為傳統上中國人不想和政府打交道。中國人很保守。他們不想和政府打交道是因為他們認為在活著的時候沒有必要和政府打交道﹐在死後﹐也不會下地獄﹐差不多是這個意思。所以﹐他們不想和政府打交道。他們認為﹐總是因為有不好的事才會需要和衙門打交道﹔或是牢獄之災或是吃官司等等。但這裡同中國不同﹐美國是個民主的國家﹐但他們還從來沒有時間來適應這裡的制度。所以﹐這需要一個教育引導的過程﹐我想再過一些年他們會逐漸有這方面的意識。而且﹐他們已經從一些組織﹐一些非盈利機構那裡獲得很多信息﹐比如中華公所(CCBA)﹐the Fujianese Association。那些組織機構經常會教育他們選舉的重要性等。</p>
<p>問﹕最後一個問題﹐我記得您剛纔說過﹐您認為CCBA和the Fujianese Association是兩個能夠牽頭帶動唐人街發展的組織﹐您是否認為他們能夠在一起合作﹖</p>