NEW YORK - The mass shooting in California that killed 10 people at a ballroom dance studio was at the top of people's minds in Chinatown on Sunday, where hundreds of Asian-Americans gathered at Roosevelt Park for the Lunar New Year Firecracker Ceremony and Cultural Festival.
While many attendees had reservations about gathering in a crowd, ultimately, they said they refused to let fear win.
"I definitely had a second thought in my mind, should I be out in a crowd, and you know, will we be put in danger?" said Grace Lee, Assemblymember for the 65th District.
"I don't want to jinx the New Year," said John Liu, NY State Senator, "But we all know what happened on the other coast, and that's weighing on us."
To kick off the Lunar New Year, dragons are brought in to symbolize good fortune, and fireworks are set off to ward off evil spirits. 2
2023's zodiac animal, the Rabbit, is believed to usher in hope, peace, and kindness.
Attendees at the event told FOX 5 NY that they were a bit on edge.
"I definitely had a second thought in my mind, should I be out in a crowd, and you know, will we be put in danger?," said Grace Lee, Assemblymember for the 65th District.
The festival took place in the same area, as at the brutal stabbing of Christina Yuna Lee last February, a fact many attendees were aware of, as they watched cultural dances, and set off fireworks, excited to be together, yet feeling vulnerable to violence.
"That's kind of a more regular feeling," said Lee. "I hate to say as Asian Americans over the last couple of years, that we've been feeling less safe in our communities and it's really just a terrible way to live"
A heavy presence of NYPD officers surrounded families who were planning to spend Lunar New Year's Day eating dumplings, noodles, and pork with each other for the first time in years.
And this year, the year of the optimistic rabbit, members of the Asian community are determined to show their strength and solidarity.
A bill the make the Lunar New Year a state holiday has already been introduced in the New York State Assembly. The goal is to give the Asian-American community the day off, so they can celebrate and enjoy family, many who travel from far and wide to be with each other. And also raises awareness of Asian history and tradition. It was made a public holiday last year in California.