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NY homeless angry at China tycoon 'publicity stunt'

Posted by on Jun. 26, 2014 at 9:07 AM
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NY homeless angry at China tycoon 'publicity stunt'

A waiter serves meals as Chinese philanthropist Chen Guangbiao hosts a lunch for 250 homeless people on June 25, 2014 at The Boathouse restaurant in New York's Central Park.

A three-course lunch hosted by an eccentric Chinese millionaire for 250 homeless New Yorkers in a posh restaurant degenerated into fury Wednesday when guests were denied $300 cash handouts.

It had seemed such a good idea. Recycling tycoon Chen Guangbiao last week took out ads in American newspapers promising a first-rate meal at the Boathouse in Central Park and $300 each.

Guests were bused in and treated to a sit-down meal of seared tuna, filet mignon and seasonal berries, waited on by staff in suits and bow ties, but anger flared over the cash no-show.

As Chen spoke to a gaggle of Chinese journalists while dessert was being served, one guest started shouting.

"Don't lie to the people!" Ernest St Pierre told AFP. "We came here for $300 but now he's changed his tune."

Chen announced through a translator that he was heading to the New York City Rescue Mission -- which helped organize the lunch -- and invited guests to join him there.

"This individual who's filthy rich put it in the paper," St Pierre, a former US Navy medic, told reporters.

Retired Vietnam War veteran Harry Brooks told reporters he would be "highly upset" if he didn't get the cash, despite enjoying the food "very much."

"I could use $300," he said. "Clothing for one thing," he said gesturing at his shabby attire when asked how he would spend it.

Not all guests were unhappy. Many said they enjoyed the food and called the experience "beautiful," saying they were touched that someone had flown all the way from China wanting to help.

- 'Fraud' -

But as they were herded outside to queue up to get the bus back, complaints multiplied.

Quin Shabazz, 34, said he felt the homeless had been exploited and branded the lunch -- covered by a mob of TV cameras and reporters -- "a big publicity stunt."

Al Johnson, 42, said he had been banking on the money to get his life together and go home to his family in Texas.

"This was going to change my life," he said. "Fraud. This is fraud with a capital F," he added. "I feel used for a photo op."

Craig Mayes, executive director of the New York City Rescue Mission, was left to deny there had been any injustice.

"I'm really sorry. It was misrepresented in the paper," he said.

Michelle Tolson, director of public relations at the Mission, said Tuesday that no cash would be handed out to individuals and that it had taken 1.5 months of negotiations to convince Chen to instead donate $90,000 to the group.

The money would be ploughed straight into the Mission's $5 million yearly expenses to feed and house people, she said.

The shelter provides people with a hot meal, a clean shower and a safe bed, clothing and assistance in addressing their problems.

Chen, known for publicity stunts and reportedly worth an estimated $825 million, serenaded his guests with a rendition of the 1985 charity single "We Are the World."

The smiling, bespectacled businessman said he wanted to give back after wealthy Americans had contributed to relief efforts after disasters in China.

"Hopefully, I will really lead the way to encourage other people who are in a position to help to follow through," he said.

Coalition for the Homeless says around 60,000 homeless men, women and children bed down in New York's shelters and thousands more who sleep rough on the streets or elsewhere.

The number of homeless New Yorkers has risen by 75 percent since 2002 and in recent years has reached the highest levels since the Great Depression of the 1930s, according to the advocacy group.

by on Jun. 26, 2014 at 9:07 AM
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by Ruby Member on Jun. 26, 2014 at 9:14 AM
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How odd and kinda mean. More than kinda
by Platinum Member on Jun. 26, 2014 at 9:25 AM

i re-read it a couple of times but something seems to be missing.  I saw this guy on the news the other night but wasn't really paying attention to what he was up to.  

by Obama licker on Jun. 26, 2014 at 9:29 AM
Seems weird.

Guy does genuinely seem to want to help. Maybe it was the cash thing. Perhaps giving each person an equivalent to $300 in clothing, transportation or food vouchers...
by Platinum Member on Jun. 26, 2014 at 9:34 AM

Giving out cash to homeless people would be kind of irresponsible.  We all know that a good portion would be for alcohol or drugs.  The $300 is attached to the individual completing a program with NY Rescue Mission 

I think a lot of the venom is about a person from another country noticing and trying to publicize a very obvious American issue.  It's like when we refused help from Cuba in a disaster and vilified Chavez when he subsidized low gas prices. 

Is he a clown?  Probably.  Did he do harm?  I don't think so. I don't see the numbers on any takers from the NY Rescue Mission, but I hope some people will participate and really work to get their lives turned around

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