Chaos descended on Central Park’s Boathouse restaurant on Wednesday after a Chinese billionaire promised the city’s poorest residents a free lunch and $300. In reality, it was just an elaborate publicity stunt.
Chen Guangbiao, an eccentric Chinese philanthropist and recycling magnate with a history of pulling stunts, claims he wants Wall Street to open up its overstuffed pockets to those in New York who need it most. He took out an advertisement in The New York Times last week, promising a luncheon for a thousand people and $300 for each attendee. The lunch was actually just for 250 ticketed people, and the $300 supposedly intended for individuals in need was donated to the New York City Rescue Mission, the charity Guangbiao partnered with. Business Insider reports that Guangbiao handed out hundred dollar bills to 200 homeless people inside, but that's not the same as promising $300 to each attendee. Needless to say, many, many people weren’t happy about that decision.
Barricades blocked anyone without a ticket or credentials from going anywhere near the Boathouse, where fresh juice costs $7 and a side of wilted spinach costs $6. Shutout homeless people who had heard about the "generous "lunch by a Chinese philanthropist were openly disappointed that they were duped into a free meal they never got to eat and free money they'd never see.
“We walked from 32nd Street. The guy ain’t coming out,” said Kesha Leggett, 46, a homeless woman from New York City.
“We saw it Thursday in the paper, a guy came to the church where we eat and said 1,000 would get free lunch. We asked him if we need a ticket and he said no. We went by his word," said Kenneth Spratley, 48. "Then someone came out here and said that they’d picked the people already."