Making Census Of It: Chinatown No Longer Home To NYC's Largest Chinese Population
Manhattan's Chinatown, one of the city's oldest neighborhoods, was historically a place where new immigrants call home, but in just a decade the area has experienced a major shift in the Chinese population. NY1's Shazia Khan filed the following report in the station's "Making Census Of It" series.
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Just 10 years ago, Chinatown was once home to the largest Chinese population in the city. But new census data shows Manhattan's Chinatown has lost that title, having dropped 17 percent of its residents, or some 6,000 Chinese New Yorkers, over the past decade.
Both Sunset Park, Brooklyn and Flushing, Queens now outnumber the original.
Community leader Wellington Chen, along with a number of others, questions the accuracy of the count, but adds he's not too surprised, given Chinatown's limited housing stock.
"Most of our core area is still the 19th-century tenement buildings, the same public housing, so we don't expect to pull more rabbits out of the same hat," says Chen. "And so it's also a typical phenomenon of Chinatown. It tends to gray out and age out."
Though Chinatown remains the historic core of the Chinese community in New York, better housing opportunities have made satellite communities in Brooklyn and Queens more vibrant.
"With good subway access between Chinatown and other parts of the city, it makes it possible to partake in Chinatown but not have to live there, for example," says Director John Mollenkopf of the CUNY Center of Urban Research.
Building affordable housing in Chinatown has not been an easy sell.
"Given that a lot of the property owners in Chinatown see trendier boutiques or restaurants or that sort of thing as generating more profit than housing for immigrants, or even some of the manufacturing activities that took place there, I think there's been a push by the real estate owners of Chinatown to help, you know, shift the direction of the community," Mollenkopf says.
City Councilwoman Margaret Chin says without more housing options, it is going to be hard to grow and maintain a population in the neighborhood.
"You know, kids there are growing, they have to move out because there's no room for them," Chin says. "But if you ask them, they would love to come back because it's convenient, it's Manhattan."