Brigid Bergin is the City Hall reporter for WNYC. She covers city politics including the 2013 mayoral race and transition.
Chinese Activist Plans Next Steps From Greenwich Village Apartment
Sunday, May 20, 2012
A day after making a frenzied trip from Beijing to New York City, a Chinese activist and his family relaxed in the courtyard of their new Greenwich Village apartment on Sunday.
Chen Guangcheng sat in a wheelchair, dressed in green striped shirt, joined by his two children. The family stayed in the courtyard of the Washington Square Village apartments, as officials cordoned off the driveway with NYPD barricades while Chen was outside.
Earlier in the day, he met with several people from the U.S.-Asia Law Institute, according to Jerome Cohen, a law professor at New York University and co-director of the Institute.
Cohen said Chen is getting acquainted with the group, while sorting through a multitude of questions.
“Starting with, 'How do we deal with all the people who want to talk to him from the media?'” said Cohen, who spoke to WNYC in the covered driveway of Chen’s building, across the street from television cameras and reporters all waiting for Chen’s next emergence.
Cohen said his team was helping Chen decide what to study, how much time to spend on English as compared to law and what kind of law to study. But Cohen said there are also decisions Chen will have to make on his own.
“You know, (like) what political stands he's interested in taking,” Cohen said. “It's all up to him. He'll have to decide.”
But, first Cohen said he’s learning about life in U.S. and in New York. On Sunday, that lesson included an afternoon soaking up some of his new surroundings.
“He said he sat in the sun for an hour, and it was the first time he can remember doing that in many, many years,” Cohen said. “And I said, ‘You've got to take time to do that at least an hour a day’.”
Chen’s children were outside even longer. “One is so tired, she's asleep on the couch,” said Cohen.
The family arrived in the U.S. Saturday evening after authorities told Chen and his family to pack and prepare to leave that morning. The family flew from Beijing to Newark on a United Airlines flight.
Other officials at NYU would not comment on Chen’s next steps. NYU spokesman John Beckman noted that federal law prohibits academic institutions from discussing individual students and their course of study in detail.
“As an academic institution, our responsibility to our students -- even high profile students -- is to provide an environment that permits them to focus on the pursuit of their education,” Beckman said via email.