Neighborhood profile… Steeped in History: Chinatown Prospers

By Jenny Liu ’19, Daniil Frolov ’19,  and Jasper Li ’19

Chatter fills the crowded streets from the rice noodle street carts to the bakeries with fresh baked buns. You are in the heart of Chinatown.

“I am here all the time with friends and family,” said Janet Yu, a student from Fort Hamilton High School. “This neighborhood is very loud and busy, but it attracts others, which makes me like it even more.”          

The streets of Chinatown are often filled with Chinese teenagers, millennials, and elders who are shopping, walking around, or even running to work. It is not surprising that Chinatown is always filled, due to the cultural attractions, restaurants, and shops.

Kris Lee ’19 said, “I like Chinatown because it’s a place where I always feel welcomed and can be proud of my Chinese background and culture.”

Today, Chinatown is viewed as one of the most popular places in New York City. Many people from different backgrounds visit Chinatown hoping to get an insight into its way of life. Although it may get heavily crowded, it is worth the pushing and shoving because it adds to the experience.

Dorlleen Jiang ’19 said, “Chinese elderly are known for going to bakeries and supermarkets to shop. I believe tourists like to take a walk around Chinatown because of the food and to explore Chinese culture in New York City.”

Chinatown is also known as a neighborhood filled with a large selection of restaurants and delicacies.

One highly recommended place for lunch is Wah Fung Fast Food, on Chrystie Street.

“This place is bomb,” said Edward Kim ’19. “It’s so worth it. $4 for rice and vegetables with your choice of chicken or pork is cheap, and they give you large portions of meat, making it even more enjoyable.”

Although the good restaurants impress a lot of people, some still aren’t satisfied. But luckily for them, they can always get bubble tea at Boba Guys in Canal Street Market or cool off with some ice cream on a fish-shaped cake from Taiyaki NYC at Baxter Street.

“I would definitely recommend going to Taiyaki,” said Jared Hwee ’19. “Their cones are unique and have a great flavor. It improves the quality of the ice cream experience and is something everyone should try in their lifetime.” 

Social media pages that promote unique shops, such as Taiyaki, have a large effect on people’s decisions to try out certain shops.

“Their popularity definitely affected my choice to try them out since many people went there,” said Katie Chen ’19. “I felt the need to see what the hype was about.” 

Chinatown is located in Lower Manhattan and is very accessible. You can take the B or D train to Grand Street, the N, Q, R, or 6 train to Canal Street, or the F to East Broadway. You can also take a ferry.

According to Huffpost.com, Chinatown in New York City originated from racism due to the “legal barriers that prevented assimilation.”

Back in the 19th Century, during the building of the Transcontinental Railroad and the new wave of immigrants, a lot of Chinese workers were blamed for lowering wages and bashed  for not assimilating to American society.

The Chinese Exclusion Act prevented them from living and working anywhere besides Chinatown with the risk of deportation.

However, today Chinatown still persists as one of the most popular areas of New York City. Although many parts of Chinatown are disappearing or simply becoming tourist destinations, many Chinese immigrants are still flocking into the United States, and their first stop is usually Chinatown.

“I’m Chinese myself so I’ve noticed many Chinese immigrants immediately go to Chinese populated areas to live and work,” said Amy Cheung ’19. “But living in Chinatown also means the risk of being exposed to Chinese elites.”

Being exposed means that they would easily be targeted for exploitation, and if they are illegally here, then the chances would be even higher. The immigrants usually blend in with those who are legally here by staying in Chinese populated areas like Chinatown.

Although Chinatown originated from discrimination and racism, it has grown to become more diverse. “Although I get tired of Chinese food sometimes, I cannot deny the taste of flavors from my country,” said Cheung.

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