A Chinatown bakery manager who was seen on video being rebuffed by Mayor Bill de Blasio said he’s disappointed that the mayor isn’t giving the neighborhood more than the occasional publicity visit.
“He was there to do a photo op, they’re trying to promote outdoor dining in Chinatown,” said Patrick Mock, the 26-year-old manager of 46 Mott Bakery. “But photos are cheap right now. We need help in our community.”
In the video from August 11th, tweeted by NY Post reporter Elizabeth Meryl Rosner, Mock begins to talk about the struggles for local businesses, which he says began well before the March lockdown, largely because of xenophobia and racism in relation to the coronavirus. After listening for a moment, de Blasio responds, “That’s very unfortunate,” and turns his back on Mock as he is asking for help.
“I finally got his attention,” said Mock. “I was speaking the truth. I started getting emotional, but I was just speaking about what we needed in the neighborhood. And he was just like, ‘Alright I got to move on to the next part, this is off schedule. I got to move on.’"
“Me explaining it to him and him walking away, it just shows, like — maybe he knows there’s a problem, but there’s nothing he wants to do or say to give us a confidence boost,” Mock added. “Which sucks.”
If the mayor had kept listening to Mock, he would have heard a novel idea: Turn Chinatown into a night market on the weekends.
“The only way I could try to start that is by doing it with Open Streets,” said Mock. “Close only for the weekends, like our neighbors in Little Italy are doing it, where our vendors could put stuff out and sell more things. Hopefully we could drive more foot traffic and bring more revenue back to the neighborhood.”
To gauge support for the idea, Mock and his colleagues went door to door in the neighborhood, asking vendors whether or not they support closing two stretches — Bayard St., between Mott St. and Mulberry St., and Mott St., between Bayard St. and Pell St. — from 5 p.m. on Friday through 10 p.m. on Sunday. Mock said that 90 percent of the people they surveyed said yes, but Councilmember Margaret Chin opposed the idea, and the mayor hasn’t stepped in or sent any commissioners to help.
Marian Guerra, a spokesperson for Chin, said that “a communication breakdown made it seem like we’re closing the door on more creative ideas, which should not be the case.” She added that the councilmember is interested in more Open Streets initiatives, but she’s heard from seniors who rely on Access-a-Ride and a funeral home that operates on Mott St. who have concerns about shutting down car access.
The incident captured in the video from Tuesday comes after months of outrage over de Blasio’s leadership, both from within the ranks of his own administration, and from other city dwellers who feel the city lacks a champion during a time of crisis.
Mock, who grew up in Chinatown and has become an outspoken advocate for the neighborhood during the pandemic, said he’s been pleased with the leadership from one politician: his state assemblymember, Yuh-Line Niou. In April, Niou helped him begin fundraising for an initiative to give out free meals to locals in need.
“At the peak, I was [giving out] 350 to 400 meals a day, and the line from my store wrapped around all the way to Bowery,” Mock said. “Now, I turned that into a homeless outreach for the area. I feed 60 meals a night to the homeless people around here. And the thing is, our homeless population is growing.”
He said the difference between Niou and the other elected leaders he’s appealed to is, she’s present.
“She’s been here with her boots on the ground every day since covid,” said Mock. “We’ve been running 16 hours a day, day and night, either providing meals to people in need, or providing PPE to the whole district and whole neighborhood. She could’ve been at home doing all her Zoom meetings, but she’s been out here.”
Because of the drop in tourism, said Mock, local businesses that remain open are losing money every day. As he said to de Blasio’s face, one of his main requests is simply for a leader to boost the neighborhood’s morale.
“How do you think our confidence is, just to open your store so you can run at a loss?” said Mock. “Photos are cheap right now. What we need is help, and a confidence boost so we can push through this.”