Sunnie Jang has lived in Bedford Park for years, cut hair for years, suffered abuse for years. Jang is fed up.
On April 27 at 11 p.m. a pack of teens gathered outside 3059 Valentine Avenue to spray paint the house. Jang occupies the top floor, her beauty salon the second.
“It was scary,” Jang said.
The teens left and Jang phoned a neighbor, John Fortune. Two hours later, the teens returned. Fortune heard them mutter, “Asians to go!” He called 911. According to Det. Martin Speechley, police officers questioned the teens and turned them loose. A police report made no mention of graffiti.
Fortune has come to Jang’s aid before. Teens often bang on the windows of 3059 Valentine, a corner house. On one occasion, they tried to force Jang’s door. Roughly a month ago, a group tagged the front of 3059 Valentine, Fortune said. On April 27, it was the side. Jang is no stranger to abuse. During the summer, teens target her house every other day, she said. They jump on her garage and kick her gate. They holler, “Ching-chang” and “Go back to your country.” There was a lull after 9/11. No longer.
“They don’t want Asian people around,” Jang said. “They think I’m Chinese. I’m Korean, but they don’t know the difference. I guess it’s because Asian people work hard. The grown-ups complain. The kids listen.”
According to Jang, Bedford Park teens deserve a community center. They get into trouble because they have no place to hang out, because they’re bored, she said.
“I talk to them sweetly,” Jang said. “I tell them, ‘If you stop, I’ll give you candy.’ They tell me to shut up.”
Jang’s beauty salon is in trouble. Many of her Korean customers have moved upstate.
“Business is slow,” Jang said. “My customers are afraid to come here and park.”
Jang registered for the mayor’s Graffiti Free NYC program and put in a request on March 10. She’s still waiting. E. 204th Street has a graffiti problem, Community Board 7 district manager Tirado said. His office sits across the street from Sunnie’s Hair Do. According to Tirado, there are tags everywhere – on buildings, lampposts and the sidewalk.
The slurs muttered at Jang and attacks on East Asian food deliverymen have frightened Bedford Park residents, Tirado said. He plans to work with the 52nd Precinct to combat graffiti and discrimination. According to 52nd Precinct community affairs officer Yvette Ortega, the 3059 Valentine incident is under investigation.