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Arsons May Signal Escalating NYC Shuttle Bus Feud

November 17, 2003. AsianWeek, pg. 7

Law enforcement authorities are continuing to investigate whether the torching of a commercial bus is the latest incident in a feud among New York City Chinatown bus companies.

In late July, a coach owned by the New Century Travel was set ablaze during the night while parked on the Lower East Side. A month earlier, another bus belonging to the same company was also burned. On both occasions, the buses were empty and no one was injured.

"They were purposely set," said Mike Loughren, a spokesperson for the New York City Fire Department (FDNY). He wouldn't comment on how the fires were started. "The investigation is ongoing. Fire marshals are working with the New York City Police Department (NYPD) to solve the case."

New Century Travel operates discount express shuttle buses between Chinese American communities in New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Fares run as low as $12 for a one-way trip -- less than half of what mainstream bus companies charge. For restaurant workers and other commuters, the discount bus lines are an economic alternative, and their popularity has turned the hundred or so bus companies into lucrative businesses that net millions of dollars per year each.

New Century has been engaged in a price war and general feud with another Chinatown company, Farewell, that previously turned allegedly violent.

In May 2002, a Farewell driver, De Jian Chen, allegedly backed his coach into a New Century bus. The incident left the other driver, Lun Dong Chen, severely injured after he was pinned between the two buses. De Jian Chen was arrested and charged with assault, menacing and reckless endangerment. Authorities say he backed the bus as many as three times into Lun Dong Chen.

De Jian Chen was shot to death in May of this year before his case was brought to trial. Police have made no arrests in the slaying.

The New York Daily News reported that the Manhattan District Attorney's office is investigating a link to organized crime. A spokesperson for the District Attorney's office wouldn't comment on whether investigators believe gangs are involved or not.

"The investigation is ongoing and no arrests have been made," said Barbara Thompson, a spokesperson for Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau.

When AsianWeek called New Century Travel, a woman who gave her name as Jennie confirmed it was the bus company, and asked which route we were interested in purchasing tickets for, but when asked about the fires, she said "I think you have the wrong number," and hung up.


Copyright 2003 AsianWeek/Pan Asia Venture Capital Corp.

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