Hate Mail Targets Inwood Restaurants

July 31, 2009 § 4 Comments

I heard a story on NPR this morning about several Latino-owned businesses in Inwood — many that my friends and I frequent — receiving hateful letters, to the tune of “vermin pigeons,” “speak English,” “stop wrecking my U.S.A.,” and “step down Sotomayor.”

Fernando Mateo, of Hispanics Across America, claims the restaurants have been receiving the letters every couple of months, and he believes owners fear the hateful words might soon turn into violence.

“That somebody may come with a machine gun and shoot-up the area, shoot-up the patrons, you know?” Mateo said. “We don’t want to wait until it escalates into gunfire.”

Jesus Hernandez also owns a restaurant in the area – Mama Sushi. He came to the US from the Dominican Republic at age 14, and worked hard to be able to open his own business seven years later.

Mama Sushi opened eight months ago, and Hernandez said he cannot understand who is targeting his store and the other businesses on the block.

“I don’t have just Latin people coming here,” Hernandez said. “I have black, I have white I have all kinds of people as customers so I can’t point out anybody who would do such a thing.”

Mateo said he will be turning some of the letters over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation Thursday for analysis. He has also been in contact with the Department of Justice for Human Rights about the threats.

Obviously I know on an intellectual level that this shit happens all the time, but it’s something completely new to think of hate-motivated violence happening on streets where I walk. Altogether terrible, especially on a community level.

§ 4 Responses to Hate Mail Targets Inwood Restaurants

  • Phoebe says:

    “Step down Sotomayor” is especially charming.

  • katiems says:

    This is a TERRIBLE story, I just want to say that first. However, these restaurants receive a lot of (non-racist) complaints about their businesses. By making a fuss about this, the business owners are trying to deflect the bad press they have been getting from the community, and instead focus on these few letters, which have actually mostly been coming from one person. I am not racist, and I am in support of (Dominican, and non Dominican) business owners in our area, but I am not in support of opening (yet another) restaurant-club in our residential neighborhood, where most of the waitstaff do not speak any english at all. So once again, I am horrified by the blatant racism here, but there are other issues at hand that are being masked by these letters.

    • mirandanyc says:

      Katie, can you elaborate on the other types of complaints they’ve been getting? I know you’ve been working on this stuff every day. And, do you really think reporting these letters is an attempt to deflect other community criticisms?

  • katiems says:

    sure, Miranda. You can go on the website for 311, I believe and actually see the complaints. Many of the complaints are about noise pollution in the neighborhood. There are also many issues with the abuse of sidewalk space, and just general disrespect of actual residents in the neighborhood. At the most recent community board meeting, one owner of Mamajuana spoke about getting a full liquor license for (yet ANOTHER) restaurant on Dyckman. This is what the meeting was about-liquor licenses, and whether our not our residential neighborhood could possibly take on another loud establishment. Here, he brought up these offensive letters. He basically equated any complaint in the neighborhood with these racist claims about his establishment, when really people in the neighborhood just want some peace and quiet at 4.30 in the morning.

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