Checking in With the Chinatown Establishment as Gentrification Debate Rages


In this week’s issue of New York Magazine, there’s a major piece titled, “How has Chinatown Stayed Chinatown?” The premise, which a great many people in the neighborhood would dispute, is that the traditional ethnic enclave has been relatively impervious to gentrification. Here’s the gist of the article from Nick Tabor:

So far, Manhattan’s Chinatown has largely resisted the laws of the real-estate market. Often defined by the rough borders of Delancey and Chambers on the north and south, and East Broadway and Broadway to the east and west, the neighborhood is still populated primarily by low-income Chinese, its storefronts are still dominated by Chinese mom-and-pop operations, and it remains a cultural and commercial hub even for expats in the outer boroughs. It has found ways to keep its internal economy humming even after its garment factories folded in the 1990s and early aughts. While the neighborhood is not immune to pressures — some restaurants are shuttering because of rent escalations, new hotels and luxury apartments are appearing on the periphery, and wealthier tenants are slowly filling vacancies in some of the old buildings — it is, broadly speaking, an exceptionally tight-knit and self-sustaining city unto itself.

The magazine profiles 21 Chinatown power players, some of them part of the old establishment and others representative of a new, innovative generation. Tabor points out that many of these people are taking part in a spirited conversation about Chinatown’s future:

This kind of debate over growth is taking place all over New York. What makes Chinatown’s future distinct from, say, Bushwick’s — or Little Italy’s — is the degree to which gentrification can be controlled by the same ethnic group that currently runs the neighborhood. Chinatown’s future may not resemble the Chinatown we know today, but it will likely be hashed out among the Chinese-American residents currently living, eating, shopping, and praying there…

You can read the complete article here.