Plight of Asian-American day laborers living in poverty in Flushing, Queens

ByCeFaan Kim, Eyewitness News WABC logo
Wednesday, March 1, 2017
Plight of Asian-American day laborers living in poverty in Queens
CeFaan Kim has the latest details.

FLUSHING, Queens (WABC) -- When it comes to New Yorkers struggling to make ends meet, there's one group that sometimes remains unseen.

More than a quarter of New York City's Asian-American population lives in poverty.

It is a scene that plays out every single morning throughout downtown Flushing.

Before tens of thousands of New Yorkers head to work on the 7 train, thousands of others gather on corners starting their day hoping to find work.

They are hoping to find some kind of way to put food on the table.

They are day laborers desperately offering a variety of services.

Eyewitness News spoke with them, along with contractors who asked not to be identified.

The workers are agreeing to perform landscaping work, plumbing, painting, anything you need, and they'll do it.

And there is no denying that the thousands who do this daily are living below the poverty line.

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Mike Cheng is a real estate developer who also sits on Community Board 7.

He says with construction booming in Flushing, and with million dollar condo listings in the backdrop, the gap between the haves and have-nots today could not be starker.

"It's kind of sad to see in this day and age, there's a lot of job insecurity and people still have to line up on the streets and not know if they're going to get a job on a daily basis, and in times when they get injured they're not sure where they're going to get the next paycheck," said Cheng, of Epos Development.

According to city figures, Asian-Americans have the highest level of poverty of any ethnic group.

At almost 27%, it is an unconscionable number. It's more than one out of every four Asian-Americans in New York.

And yet, this community receives less than one percent of state funding.

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State Assemblyman Ron Kim says there is a solution.

He says for this population to find permanent positions that would also strengthen the economy, it starts with funding adult literacy programs.

"Right now there's a crisis in New York State. There are roughly 3.5 million immigrants that need adult literacy programs and only 7,500 immigrants are getting them," Kim said.

Permanent jobs means not having to wake up every morning wondering how you'll make ends meet.