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For immediate release
September 25, 2000
Jessamyn Sarmiento, NPR

NPR News Explores Politics
Through the Eyes of New York Asian Americans

New York, NY-At the turn of this century, the Asian community continues to emerge as one of the fastest growing minority populations in America. As the election season switches into high gear, NPR News will examine the impact these groups are having in New York City's political arena.

As part of The Changing Face of America series from NPR News, correspondent Melissa Block takes a look at the Asian-American community in New York City and its increasing efforts to assert itself politically. Despite their large and growing numbers, Asian Americans are not represented in the New York State Assembly or Senate, or in the New York City Council. Part of the reason for this is the low voter registration among Asian immigrants and their descendents; even those who are eligible often choose not to register. Block's story takes the listener to Flushing, Queens, one of the most diverse communities in the country. The City Council seat in Flushing is open in 2001 and so far, several Asian Americans and one Puerto Rican American are running for it. Races like this are getting underway throughout New York City, where City Council seats have typically been one of the "first rungs" for new immigrants to establish themselves in politics.

Block will talk to Julia Harrison, the City Councilwoman who is leaving her seat next year, about how the neighborhood has changed dramatically since Harrison moved there as a young mother, nearly 50 years ago. Block will also speak with the contenders for Harrison's seat, including John Liu, Ethel Chen, Terence Park and Martha Flores-Vazquez. The race for Harrison's seat, and others like it, raises important questions about the role of immigrants and ethnicity in American politics: how, for example, does a Korean American build a coalition in a neighborhood that has Russian Jews, Chinese Americans, Colombians, African Americans, Dominicans, and elderly whites, among many others?

Listen to Morning Edition® with Bob Edwards on Friday, September 29, as Melissa Block takes a closer look at Asian-American demographics in New York City and this community's emerging political role. For nationwide station information and broadcast times, please visit NPR's Web site at

The Changing Face of America is an 18-month-long series that tells the stories of everyday Americans and the issues they face at a time of dramatic and rapid change. NPR News correspondents explore and report on such diverse issues as immigration, inter-generational conflict, economic development, urban growth, education, technology and leisure, all within the context of a changing America. Feature segments of "The Changing Face of America" series can be heard on Morning Edition with Bob Edwards and All Things Considered®. As part of this series, NPR's midday call-in program, Talk of the Nation®, is traveling to cities and towns across America for monthly broadcast forums before live audiences.

The series is supported by a grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts. The Pew Charitable Trusts invest in ideas that fuel timely action and results. It is focusing a significant portion of its resources on supporting programs that stimulate participation in civic affairs. These include initiatives that foster a citizenry more engaged in local, regional and national public issues and that provide information resources for the media, the public and policymakers.

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