You are reading

Meet Lele, the Sunnyside Resident Living Under the 46th Street Station

Lele Yau at the 46th Street train station (Photo: QueensPost)

Feb. 22, 2022 By Christian Murray

Surrounded by shopping carts, clothes and mountains of other belongings, Lele Yau has become a fixture under the 46th Street subway station.

To some, she’s an eyesore— to Yau she is just going about her daily routine trying to survive.

“I don’t bother anyone, and no one bothers me,” Yau said, who is one of several homeless people living under the 46th Street train station in Sunnyside.

Yau, 69, is particularly visible given the amount of personal property she has.

She is often seen sitting on a patio chair, sitting alongside as many as 10 shopping carts stuffed with items, including bags of clothes, blankets, comforters, and furniture. She also has plants and a collection of bottles—as well as a broom that she uses to sweep her area.

She said she spends most of her time during the day at the station reading books and newspapers. On cold nights, she moves over by the Key Food on 46th Street and sleeps against the wall because the area is more sheltered. She has several blankets and comforters—most of which have been donated by residents– and creates a makeshift bed.

“It’s warmer and I feel safer,” Yau said, adding that the owners of the supermarket have given her permission to sleep by the wall where it is more sheltered from the cold wind.

She said that on cold days she wears six layers of clothes. She gets changed at Noonan Playground on 43rd Street and uses its bathroom facilities when open. “I’m very quick in there. Very quick,” she says.

Yau said she has been living under the 46th Street station for approximately two years and prior to being homeless was a longtime resident of Sunnyside.

She said that she had lived in an apartment with her mother on Skillman Avenue for 35 years until her mother died 3 years ago. Soon after, she said, the owner of the apartment wanted the unit for his children.

She said she had no immediate family to turn to.

“I never got married and don’t have children,” she said. However, she did say that she has relatives in the area—although she is not on good terms with them.

Yau, a U.S. citizen who is from Hong Kong, used to work in the fashion district in Manhattan drawing patterns for clothing designers. She hasn’t worked for many years and said that she was not getting social security.

The idea of going to a homeless shelter does not appeal to Yau—since she fears losing her belongings. She said that she wouldn’t be able to take her property inside the shelter and is not prepared to part from it.

Yau said that she is one of five homeless people living under the 46th Street station. She is one of three who live on the western side of the station—toward 45th Street.

She said that it used to be her and one other man on the western side until three months ago. A new resident has arrived who has a mattress and lies in the corner. “I talk to him, he is nice.”

But Yau said that she is not on speaking terms with the other man who has been at the station a long time.

“He was in the hospital for months but came back. I was surprised,” she said.

Yau said that she rarely goes hungry largely due to the generosity of Sunnysiders.

“A lady today gave me $5,” Yau said Friday. “Some days people give me $20.”

She said that hot food is hard to come by—and she enjoys hot soup. “So far I haven’t gone hungry.”

Yau said that nobody has forced her to leave—nor has attempted to take her belongings.

She said that the police have approached her a few times and told her to leave but have never taken steps to physically kick her out. “I tell them that I don’t bother anyone, and they leave me alone.”

But Yau is nervous that she may soon get booted out, given the changing mood of New York City and its attitude toward the homeless—particularly in and around subways.

“I’m starting to get worried. I think this year might be different.”

Lele’s belongings below the 46th St station (Photo: QueensPost)

email the author: [email protected]
No comments yet

Leave a Comment
Reply to this Comment

All comments are subject to moderation before being posted.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Recent News

Longtime Queens jurist named chief administrative judge of New York State Unified Court System

Judge Joseph A. Zayas, who spent most of his judicial career presiding over Queens’ courtrooms, was officially installed as chief administrative judge of the New York State Unified Court System, the highest-ranking administrative position in the state judiciary.

Judge Zayas was appointed by Chief Judge Rowan D. Wilson and approved by the Administrative Board of the Courts to succeed Judge Tamiko Amaker, who served as the court system’s acting chief administrative judge since December 2022.

“Judge Zayas has a stellar reputation for his keen judgment, hard work, integrity and deep knowledge of both the law and the complex workings of the New York State court system,” said Chief Judge Rowan. “He has demonstrated exceptional leadership and the highest ethical standards over the course of his distinguished judicial career. He is a forward-thinking, hands-on manager as proven throughout his tenure as administrative judge for criminal matters in Queens County, where he implemented numerous reforms and programs to improve the delivery of justice.”

The chief administrative judge supervises the daily administration and operation of the Unified Court System, which has a budget of $3.3. billion, with 3,600 state and locally paid judges and nearly 15,000 non-judicial employees in over 300 courthouses spanning 62 counties.

Queens Symphony Orchestra performs at Russo’s on the Bay in Howard Beach

Councilwoman Joann Ariola brought the Queens Symphony Orchestra to Russo’s on the Bay on May 22 for the Night at the Opera – a free concert event that drew more than 200 people to the Howard Beach events hall located at 162-45 Cross Bay Blvd.

“It was truly an honor to continue funding such a wonderful program, and to bring this great music to so many people,” Ariola said. “We were able to bring so many people together for a free night of music – that’s what this is all about, letting taxpayer dollars work for the taxpayer, and providing programs like this that give our residents a nice night out to just unwind and enjoy themselves.”

Advocates pen letter blasting Mayor Adams’ legal motion to suspend right-to-shelter

Homeless advocates penned a letter to a Manhattan Supreme Court judge opposing Mayor Eric Adams’ recent legal motion calling for the suspension of the city’s decades-old right-to-shelter law amid the ongoing migrant influx.

The letter, sent last Thursday and released Tuesday, comes in response to Adams last week filing a court motion to exempt the city from its legal mandate — established by the 1984 Callahan v. Carey consent decree — to provide shelter to single adults and adult couples when it “lacks the resources and capacity” to do so. The mayor and top administration officials say they’re not seeking to abolish the right-to-shelter, but rather “clarity” from the court that would give them more “flexibility” in finding suitable housing for tens of thousands of migrants.

Rockaway’s piping plovers among endangered species commemorated on U.S. Postal Service stamps

A day before the city reopened nearly 70 blocks of public beaches along the Rockaway peninsula for the Memorial Day weekend, the U.S. Postal Service and National Park Service hosted a special event at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Broad Channel to honor the piping plover, an endangered shorebird featured on new stamps.

In attendance were members of the NYC Plover Project, a nonprofit with more than 250 volunteers, who have been on the beaches since March preparing for the summer swim season, who celebrated the newly released stamp sheet commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act.

Bayside High School hosts annual Social Entrepreneur Trade Fair

Bayside High School hosted its annual Social Entrepreneur Trade Fair Friday. Students from the Career and Technical Education Humanities and Nonprofit Management program each pitched their socially responsible products to students, staff and others in attendance.

Each of the 11th grade students in the program have been taking a college credit course from Farmingdale State College called Social Entrepreneur. The students were divided into 17 groups of five and tasked with coming up with innovative ideas to create businesses while also being socially responsible. The Social Entrepreneur Trade Fair grants them with the opportunity to work on pitching their products to potential customers.