When New Yorkers think of "Chinatown," the Lower East Side, Flushing and Sunset Park come to mind, but there are also other Chinese communities that have emerged and strengthened in Brooklyn over the years. Borough reporter Jeanine Ramirez filed the following Asian American Week report.
For the past two decades, Sunset Park has flourished as Brooklyn's Chinatown. According to the 2010 census, it now has a larger Chinese population than Manhattan's Chinatown. But that is not the only Chinese community to emerge in the borough.
Another Chinese hub is several subway stops south, at Avenue U in Sheepshead Bay in Community District 15.
"What's been happening is that in this area, there's been a tremendous growth of the Chinese population and Chinese seniors," says Richard Kuo of Homecrest Community Services. "Right now, the Chinese population is approximately 12 percent of the total population in Community District 15, and that's approximately 18,000 to 20,000 people of Chinese origin. Of that number, about 10 percent, over 2,000, are seniors over 65. So this represents since the year 2000 a 25-percent increase."
Kuo saw the southern trend 15 years ago and started the neighborhood's first Asian senior center. Homecrest Community Services started operating out of a Presbyterian church in 1997 with 200 seniors. It now has 2,000, offering all kinds of services from health care to ESL classes.
"With the culture and the language barriers, it's very difficult for seniors to get access to what they're entitled to and what the services are," says Kuo. "So what we do is we provide that access, a link to government as well as to outside organizations."
In 2004, Homecrest expanded to Bensonhurst, where another Chinese community, also along the southern subway lines, has emerged in the once predominantly Italian neighborhood.
Kuo says in both Bensonhurst and Sheepshead Bay, the Chinese communities are made up of homeowners, professionals and voters who live in multi-generational households. He says more funds are needed to help the senior population.
"I'm hopeful that the Department of Aging will provide multi-year funding for this center very soon," says Kuo.
Along with census numbers in their favor, Kuo notes Asians continue to be the fastest-growing ethnic group in the borough.