Brooklyn Chinatowns

BPL-Lunar New Year: Brooklyn Chinatown, Sunset Park: 8th Ave Station, photo by Lisa Chow, 2014 Sunset Park, 8th Ave Station © Lisa Chow, 2014
BPL-Lunar New Year: Brooklyn Chinatown, Sunset Park: 8th Ave Station, photo by Lisa Chow, 2014 Sunset Park, 8th Ave Station © Lisa Chow, 2014
BPL-Lunar New Year: Brooklyn Chinatown, Sunset Park: Chinese Lantern, photo by Lisa Chow, 2014 Sunset Park, Chinese Lanterns © Lisa Chow, 2014
BPL-Lunar New Year: Brooklyn Chinatown, Sunset Park: New Year Shopping, photo by Lisa Chow, 2014Sunset Park, New Year Shopping © Lisa Chow, 2014
BPL-Lunar New Year: Brooklyn Chinatown, Sunset Park: Chinese Lantern, photo by Lisa Chow, 2014Sunset Park, 8th Ave. Markets © Lisa Chow, 2014
BPL-Lunar New Year: Brooklyn Chinatown, Sunset Park: Chinese Lantern, photo by Lisa Chow, 2014Sunset Park, 8th Ave. Sugar Canes © Lisa Chow, 2014

When we think of Chinatown in NYC, we usually think of the Lower East Side of Manhattan. But did you know there are currently six Chinatown neighborhoods established in NYC, three of them in Brooklyn:

  • Sunset Park Chinatown (布鲁克林華埠)
  • Avenue U Chinatown (唐人街, U大道)
  • Bensonhurst Chinatown (唐人街, 本森社区)

Chinese migration to the United States encountered great animosity. The Los Angeles, CA Chinese massacre of 1871 is "the largest incident of mass lynching in American history.";while the Rock Springs, Wyoming massacre 1885 shocked the nation in the "sheer brutality of the violence", Americans were sympathetic to the lynching rioters rather than the Chinese victims and no person or persons were ever convicted in this shameful chapter of American history.

American’s strong anti-Chinese sentiments resulted in the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882-1943), the only non-wartime federal law that excluded a people based on nationality. It was only symbolically repealed in 1943 to gain China as an ally of the United States in World War II against the Japanese; and it was as late as June 2012 that the United State House of Representatives passed a resolution introduced by Congresswoman Judy Chu that formally conveys regrets for the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Bonnie Tsui in her book, American Chinatown: A People’s History of Five Neighborhoods writes that Chinatown developed in the first place because of racism: “Chinatown, then, was at the same time a forced ghetto and a safe haven.” Tan Chow, a community organizer is quoted in the book: "Chinatown today fulfils two essential needs: as a spiritual and historical touchstone for older generations, and as a physical home for new immigrants."

Significant Chinese migration to the United States occurred only after the Immigration Act of 1965 and NYC’s Chinatown became the largest concentration of Chinese in the western hemisphere. After the 9-11 attack the Chinatown in Manhattan was adversely affected by many security closures of its streets and the subsequent gentrification of Lower Manhattan; satellite Chinatowns emerged and grew in Brooklyn and Queens. New Chinese communities are also forming in East Harlem and uptown Manhattan. Satellite Chinatowns in NYC all radiate by direct subway lines from the historical Chinatown in the Lower East Side. A Daily News article in 2011 states that the Sunset Park Chinatown population now surpasses Manhattan’s Chinatown and Sunset Park ranks first, with the Flushing, Queens as the second largest.

 

For more on the Chinese in America, check out
Brooklyn Collection’s Phases of the Moon: the Lunar New Year in Brooklyn's Past
and a booklist on the Chinese in America by David Diakow, librarian in History, Biography & Religion Division.
To join in on Lunar New Year celebration, check out our event listing.