The Great Mosaic: Bensonhurst doctor gives back through social services and good deeds

Dr. Tim Law of the Chinese American Social Services Center poses for a portrait outside their building on Avenue O in Bensonhurst on May 26.
Photo by Paul Frangipane

Dr. Tim Law of Bensonhurst says he goes home feeling satisfied every day knowing he’s helped others in his community. 

“A lot of people in this neighborhood don’t speak English. They don’t have information. They are almost isolated,” Law said in a sit-down interview with Brooklyn Paper. “That’s why I want to help them go to the different meetings, get the information, listen to the Chinese newspaper, Chinese radio stations.”

Law, an immigrant from Hong Kong, came to the United States in 1968 on a student visa to Fordham University in the Bronx. He studied education, and first found a home in New York City on Sunset Park’s Eighth Avenue. 

At the time, Law said, he was one of only three Chinese families in the area, a now-bustling neighborhood known as Brooklyn’s own Chinatown — something the doctor of education suspects is due to Sunset Park’s easy access to Manhattan’s larger Chinatown via the N train.

But after a few years in Sunset Park, Law moved to Bensonhurst, another neighborhood which currently houses a large Chinese population. Similarly to his first home in Sunset Park, Law said he was one of the first Asian-American residents to settle down in Bensonhurst.

Law said he’s seen these neighborhoods change drastically over time. He once had to travel to Manhattan’s Chinatown to get the Chinese-language newspaper and his favorite Chinese dishes and ingredients, but now, he can pick those items up at his local grocer.

In his early Brooklyn years, Law worked at the city Department of Education and monitored the Chinese-English bilingual programs at public schools across the five boroughs. He also spent five years teaching at a public school in Queens. 

The retired administrator told Brooklyn Paper he always stressed to the principals at the schools he visited to not let students spend too long in the language program, arguing that they should eventually place out in order to improve their English.

Now, 17 years since his retirement, Law specializes in supporting his community and other immigrants, providing a multitude of services free of charge — chief among them, help with translation.

Dr. Tim Law sits for an interview. His advice for other immigrants: “Never give up.”Photo by Paul Frangipane

Five years ago, Law opened the Chinese American Social Services Center on Bensonhurst’s Avenue O, where he says there is an open-door policy for those in need of assistance. The CASS Center provides translation services, whether it’s reading a letter or filling out forms, and Law works to provide any pertinent information immigrants may have trouble getting such as vaccine information or government aid. 

Moreover, the humanitarian hosts workshops and meetings for the Chinese community and other Bensonhurst residents on information they’ve asked for. Currently, Law is planning a meeting with the local 62nd Precinct on the requirements to become an auxiliary police officer — something, he said, young people he works with have expressed interest in.

Officers at the meeting will also display tactics that should be taken if someone is the subject of a hate crime — an issue on the rise in Bensonhurst and beyond.

Law encouraged any victims of a hate crimes to always report it to the police, no matter how severe, arguing that there needs to be a record of the incident for the police to investigate and devote resources to patrol areas with high occurrences of hate crimes. 

“Call the police,” Law said. “Let people know there is an incident in this neighborhood, and so people know they have to pay attention and be careful.”

Dr. Tim Law is proud of the work he’s done for Brooklyn’s Chinese communities.Photo by Paul Frangipane

He also argued that the city needs to push out a strong mental health initiative to combat the hate crimes, citing that most of the attackers were found to display signs of emotional distress.

Moreover, claims that the city’s Chinese population spread the coronavirus are wrong and unfounded, said Law, who maintained that the allegations were not only ludicrous, they were also harmful to residents. The Brooklynite encouraged others to get to know their neighbors of other cultures, and said that if everyone works together they will get through the other side of the pandemic and be a better Bensonhurst for it.

Never give up, Law said when asked if he had any advice for other immigrants. The do-gooder also advises people to eat healthy, stay active, work hard and to help others any way they can. 

“I think that there needs to be a community where people will help each other,” he told Brooklyn Paper. “If something happens, just talk to each other and share information. If you have some good news, just share it with each other. That’s what’s most important.”

The Great Mosaic is a new column focused on immigrant success stories. To share your story, email [email protected].