"The attacks are random, and they are fast and furious," said Jo-Ann Yoo, executive director of the Asian American Federation, a nonprofit network of community groups. "It has stoked a lot of fear and paranoia. People are not leaving their homes."
Hate crimes in New York City continue to rise at an alarming rate. According to the New York City Police Department (NYPD), more than 40 percent of the 180 incidents reported this year had affected people from Asian groups.
This represents a 73 percent raise over the first four months of 2020.
According to statistics from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, New York has seen the biggest surge of hate crimes against Asians compared to other big cities since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Organizers have developed watch groups, volunteer buddy programs, and other projects as a result of this. Many Asian-Americans have also altered their everyday routines, skipping the metro, becoming hyper-alert in public, and spending as much time as possible at home.
However, as more New Yorkers get vaccinated, the city is unquestionably becoming more accessible. As a result of the recent spate of assaults, many Asian-Americans are increasingly arming themselves with self-defense pieces.
"People are talking about whether to buy pepper spray, whether to buy a Taser gun, like which one is better? Which one is safer, which one would you actually use? These are conversations that we're having now," Ms. Chen said.
"I think it just speaks to the urgency that people are feeling," said Kenji Jones, one of the New Yorkers, including medical student Michelle Tran, who are collecting funds in Chinatown and Flushing, Queens, to give away personal protection equipment.