Tim Law

Bilingual educator and founder of Chinese American Social Services Center in Bensonhurst

This interview was conducted and recorded in Mandarin Chinese by Yolanda Zhang. Read Keenan Yutai Chen's transcript and translation below:


Dr. Tim Law came to the U.S. from Hong Kong in 1968 as an international student and went on to earn three master's degrees and a PhD in education from NYU, Fordham and Long Island University. He shares the story of being orphaned as a baby and adopted by an elderly woman in his village, which later resulted in elders having to recite his birth story to officials so that he could get a birth certificate to apply for a passport. When Dr. Law and his family settled in Bensonhurst in the 1970s for the quality of the schools, there were fewer Chinese residents there than today and many of them were Cantonese speakers. "The neighborhood was very tranquil," he recalls, "unlike the noisiness in the Eighth Avenue area" of Sunset Park, where they previously lived.

During a 35-year career at the NYC Department of Education as a teacher and administrator, Dr. Law counseled and advocated for Chinese-speaking students and their families and for bilingual education. He is fluent in Cantonese, Mandarin and Hakka as well as English. Fourteen years ago, Dr. Law established a program of free Chinese language classes for children on Saturdays at I.S. 96 Seth Low School, a middle school that draws children from Bensonhurst, Gravesend and Coney Island. After retiring from the DOE, he founded the Chinese American Social Services Center on Avenue O in Bensonhurst, where seniors can socialize and share news, improve their language skills, get help with paperwork, and attend workshops.