The city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development says it has suspended an inspector for allegedly using a racist slur in his paperwork to describe Asian tenants in an Upper East Side apartment. The slur wound up in a letter sent to tenant Khang Duong, following an inspection initiated earlier this month over his unit’s lack of heat and hot water.
Duong said the inspector never asked for his name or the names of two other tenants who were present, and that their interaction with the inspector was normal. But Duong and his roommates subsequently received an official letter from the city addressed to a made-up name that is commonly used as a racial slur against Asians.
Duong told CBS 2 that the letter left him “speechless. It feels surreal. We don’t know what we did for this to happen. We treated [the inspector] with respect.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development said, “The employee is suspended without pay and we’re conducting a full investigation to determine further disciplinary action. We’ve reached out to the individual affected to express our profound apologies. Racism has no place in New York City. We stand with the AAPI community against hate.”
Duong and his roommates said that while they were pleasantly surprised by the city’s quick response, they remain troubled that the letter made it out of a city agency without anyone questioning it.
“Even if the blame lies with the inspector, this is a letter from the city, someone has to print it out,” one of Duong’s roommates, Duc Pham, told ABC 7. “Someone has to fold it and mail it, so clearly there was no oversight there was no checking.”
“Using an official form on an official letter makes it seem like they don’t really care,” Duong told CBS 2. “I just feel like we’re not protected, as an Asian right now.”
City Councilmember Brad Lander expressed outrage over the letter after Duong shared a photo of the envelope on social media, and a spokesperson for Mayor Bill de Blasio subsequently tweeted that a “full investigation has been launched.”
My god. This employee has been immediately suspended without pay as a full investigation has been launched. @NYCHousing has contacted the person who received this letter to apologize as well.
— Bill Neidhardt (@BNeidhardt) March 26, 2021
The incident comes amid a surge in anti-Asian violence in NYC and nationwide. The head of the NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force told PIX 11 on Saturday that there have been 26 anti-Asian incidents reported to police so far this year, including 12 assaults. By this time in 2020 there had been eight officially reported anti-Asian incidents, though advocates say the real number is likely much higher due to underreporting.
On Saturday night, the NYPD announced it had arrested a man suspected of physically threatening a woman and shouting anti-Asian remarks at her on a sidewalk in the Garment District on Friday afternoon. The suspect, who police have identified as 48-year-old Manhattan resident Bobby Eli, is charged with menacing as a hate crime and aggravated harassment as a hate crime..