At Queens Commons in Flushing, politics was on the menu.
About 600 people across the tri-state area came together on a Sunday afternoon to wine, dine and mobilize support for a prominent politician from overseas. Many of the men and women immigrated to the city from Taiwan nearly 20 years ago, and yet they continued to follow, quite vigilantly, the political developments of their homeland.
The guest of honor -- Mr. Tseng-Chang Su, arrived in New York early that morning after meeting with supporters in Los Angeles. Su is a prominent politician of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and a current candidate for mayor of Taipei. He previously ran as the Vice Presidential nominee for the DPP in 2008 on a ticket that lost to the opposing party, the Kuomintang (KMT). Despite that loss, Su's popularity has led many to speculate that he will run for the Taiwanese presidency in 2012.
With this trip to New York, Su aimed to generate support for his candidacy and his party. He is currently locked in a tight race against KMT incumbent Hau Lung-bin, and this overseas trip could produce the extra votes the DPP needs to win in the November mayoral election.
From an American perspective, it may appear unconventional for a political candidate to travel to another country for votes. But as organizers told NBCNewYork, this tactic is commonly utilized by the Taiwanese.
"A message from far away from people who live here to their relatives and friends in Taiwan sometimes has double the effect on those who have not decided who to vote for," explained Borcheng Hsu, Deputy Executive Director of Event Planning, "so [Mr. Su] is encouraging everyone to call their friends to make the message stronger.
It may be about the message, but it's also about the money. Diners who packed the Mudan restaurant Sunday were required to fork over a donation; anywhere from $100 to $2,500. Such amounts can make quite an impact when converted to Taiwanese currency: $2,500 is the equivalent of $80,000 TWD.
At a press conference, Su admired New York for its "progressive quality," citing High Line Park as an example of the foward-thinking change he hoped to produce in Taipei.
"New York took an abandoned railroad and turned it into a 'garden in the sky.'" he said, "It was through the shared consensus and restoration efforts of local residents that turned [High Line Park] into a beautiful place for relaxation and recreation. Beyond this, there are many more things in New York that are new and constantly changing. We can certainly learn from these examples."
His thoughts were echoed by his followers.
"If Mr. Su is elected, I hope he can come often to cooperate with New York City." said Ray Huang, a local businessman. "New York is a great city, and I hope Taipei can be as great as New York."