City officials suspended a housing inspector Friday for allegedly using a racist trope to identify an Asian New Yorker in a government database — an insult the Upper East Side man discovered when he received a letter in the mail with the slur in the address label.
The notice of inspection from the Department of Housing and Preservation was addressed to ‘Chin Chong,’ a play on a deeply offensive anti-Asian stereotype, instead of the apartment’s residents — 22-year-old Duc Pham and his roommates.
“It might have been one person who’s racist and the rest of the machine just didn’t catch the mistake,” Pham told The Post, “but it’s obviously very disappointing that the city — where we look to protect us, to make sure these things don’t happen — actually creates these problems.”
Pham said the HPD inspector visited his apartment after other tenants in the five-story walkup he calls home complained to the city about problems with the building’s heat and hot water.
“We let him in, we didn’t have a lot of conversation, we didn’t talk much, he was very polite,” he recalled. “It was super quick, less than 30 minutes.”
So Pham, an immigrant from Vietnam, was stunned when he got the inspection notice in the mail on Wednesday with the racial insult in the line of the mailing label for his name.
The programmer for Facebook posted a picture of the envelope on Facebook on Wednesday — and by Friday, the letter had been shared widely across the Internet and roundly condemned by city leaders.
“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,” wrote City Hall press secretary Bill Neidhardt on Twitter. “New York City stands united to #StopAsianHate and this has no place in our city gov.”
The agency confirmed the inspector suspended without pay for allegedly entering the insult into the city’s massive inspections database was the same who visited Pham’s apartment on March 17, but declined to identify him.
“[W]e’re conducting a full investigation to determine further disciplinary action,” said an agency spokesman in a statement. “We’ve reached out to the individual affected to express our profound apologies.”
The letter comes amid a spate of violence in New York City — and across the country — aimed at Asian Americans.
The NYPD has tallied 26 crimes aimed at the community so far this year officials said Thursday as they launched a new plainclothes effort to try to put a cap on the violence.