Chinese Americans in New York City

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The New York metropolitan area contains the largest ethnic Chinese population outside of Asia, enumerating 735,019 individuals as of 2012,[1] including at least 12 Chinatowns - six[2] (or nine, including the emerging Chinatowns in Corona and Whitestone, Queens,[3] and East Harlem, Manhattan) in New York City proper, and one each in Nassau County, Long Island; Edison, New Jersey;[3] and Parsippany-Troy Hills, New Jersey, not to mention fledgling ethnic Chinese enclaves emerging throughout the New York City metropolitan area.


Chinese began arriving in New York City in the 19th century.

The first Chinese immigrants came to Lower Manhattan around 1870, looking for the "gold" America had to offer.[4] By 1880, the enclave around Five Points was estimated to have from 200 to as many as 1,100 members.[4] However, the Chinese Exclusion Act, which went into effect in 1882, caused an abrupt decline in the number of Chinese who emigrated to New York and the rest of the United States.[4] Later, in 1943, the Chinese were given a small quota, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 caused a revival in Chinese immigration,[5] and the community's population gradually increased until 1968, when the quota was lifted and the Chinese American population skyrocketed.[4]


New York City boroughs[edit]

As the city proper with the nation's largest Chinese American population by a wide margin, with an estimated 522,619 individuals in 2012,[6] and as the primary destination for new Chinese immigrants,[7] New York City is subdivided into official municipal boroughs, which themselves are home to significant Chinese populations, with Brooklyn and Queens, adjacently located on Long Island, leading the fastest growth.[8][9]

Rank Borough City Chinese Americans Density of Chinese Americans per square mile Percentage of Chinese Americans in municipality's population
1 Queens New York City 208,897 1,912.3 9.2
2 Brooklyn New York City 195,750 2,772.3 7.6
3 Manhattan New York City 97,461 4,244.8 6.0
4 Staten Island New York City 13,620 232.9 2.9
5 The Bronx New York City 6,891 164 0.5
Total New York City 522,619 1,727.1 6.3


The Manhattan Chinatown was the first Chinatown.[10] Little Fuzhou is also located in Manhattan.

Brooklyn and Queens are home to other Chinatowns. The Sunset Park Chinatown the Bensonhurst Chinatown and the Avenue U-Marine Park areas of Brooklyn and the Elmhurst and Flushing Chinatown areas of Queens have the other Chinatowns. The Upper East Side and Upper West Side of Manhattan, Staten Island, and the Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope areas of Brooklyn have also received Chinese settlement.[10]


Manhattan's Chinatown holds the highest concentration of Chinese people in the Western Hemisphere.[11][12][13][14][15] Within Manhattan's expanding Chinatown lies Little Fuzhou on East Broadway and surrounding streets, occupied predominantly by immigrants from the Fujian Province of Mainland China. Areas surrounding "Little Fuzhou" consist mostly of Cantonese immigrants from Guangdong Province. In the past few years, however, the Cantonese dialect that has dominated Chinatown for decades is being rapidly swept aside by Mandarin, the national language of China and the lingua franca of most of the latest Chinese immigrants.[16] The energy and population of Manhattan's Chinatown are fueled by relentless, massive immigration from Mainland China, both legal and illegal in origin, propagated in large part by New York's high density of habitation, extensive mass transit system, and huge economic marketplace.

The early settlers of Manhattan's Chinatown were mostly from Hong Kong and from Taishan of the Guangdong Province of China, where Cantonese is spoken, and also from Shanghai.[17] They form most of the Chinese population of the area surrounded by Mott and Canal Streets.[17] The later settlers, from Fuzhou, Fujian, form the Chinese population of the area bounded by East Broadway.[17] Chinatown's modern borders are roughly Delancey Street on the north, Chambers Street on the south, East Broadway on the east, and Broadway on the west.[18]

Queens Library in Flushing Chinatown, the first satellite of the original Manhattan Chinatown.
The Elmhurst Chinatown on Broadway, now a satellite of the Flushing Chinatown in Queens itself.

The Flushing Chinatown, in the Flushing area of the borough of Queens in New York City, is one of the largest and fastest growing ethnic Chinese enclaves outside Asia, as well as within New York City itself. Main Street and the area to its west, particularly along Roosevelt Avenue, have become the primary nexus of Flushing Chinatown. However, Flushing Chinatown continues to expand southeastward along Kissena Boulevard and northward beyond Northern Boulevard. In the 1970s, a Chinese community established a foothold in the neighborhood of Flushing, whose demographic constituency had been predominantly non-Hispanic white. Taiwanese began the surge of immigration, followed by other groups of Chinese. By 1990, Asians constituted 41% of the population of the core area of Flushing, with Chinese in turn representing 41% of the Asian population.[19] However, ethnic Chinese are constituting an increasingly dominant proportion of the Asian population as well as of the overall population in Flushing and its Chinatown. A 1986 estimate by the Flushing Chinese Business Association approximated 60,000 Chinese in Flushing alone.[20] Mandarin Chinese[21] (including Northeastern Mandarin), Fuzhou dialect, Min Nan Fujianese, Wu Chinese, Beijing dialect, Wenzhounese, Shanghainese, Suzhou dialect, Hangzhou dialect, Changzhou dialect, Cantonese, Taiwanese, and English are all prevalently spoken in Flushing Chinatown, while the Mongolian language is now emerging. Even the relatively obscure Dongbei style of cuisine indigenous to Northeast China is now available there.[22] Given its rapidly growing status, the Flushing Chinatown may surpass in size and population the original New York City Chinatown in the Borough of Manhattan within a few years, and it is debatable that this may have already happened.

One of the Brooklyn Chinatowns. New York City's satellite Chinatowns in Queens and Brooklyn are thriving as traditionally urban enclaves, as large-scale Chinese immigration into New York continues,[23][24][25][26] with the largest metropolitan Chinese population outside Asia.[27]

By 1988, 90% of the storefronts on Eighth Avenue in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, were abandoned. Chinese immigrants then moved into this area, not only new arrivals from China, but also members of Manhattan's Chinatown seeking refuge from high rents, who flocked to the cheap property costs and rents of Sunset Park and formed the Brooklyn Chinatown,[28] which now extends for 20 blocks along 8th Avenue, from 42nd to 62nd Streets. This relatively new but rapidly growing Chinatown located in Sunset Park was originally settled by Cantonese immigrants like Manhattan's Chinatown in the past. However, in the recent decade, an influx of Fuzhou immigrants has been pouring into Brooklyn's Chinatown and supplanting the Cantonese at a significantly higher rate than in Manhattan's Chinatown, and Brooklyn's Chinatown is now home to mostly Fuzhou immigrants. In the past, during the 1980s and 1990s, the majority of newly arriving Fuzhou immigrants settled within Manhattan's Chinatown, and the first Little Fuzhou community emerged within Manhattan's Chinatown; by the first decade of the 21st century, however, the epicenter of the massive Fuzhou influx had shifted to Brooklyn's Chinatown, which is now home to the fastest-growing and perhaps largest Fuzhou population in New York City. Unlike the Little Fuzhou in Manhattan's Chinatown, which remains surrounded by areas which continue to house significant populations of Cantonese, all of Brooklyn's Chinatown is swiftly consolidating into New York City's new Little Fuzhou. However, a growing community of Wenzhounese immigrants from China's Zhejiang Province is now also arriving in Brooklyn's Chinatown.[29][30] Also in contrast to Manhattan's Chinatown, which still successfully continues to carry a large Cantonese population and retain the large Cantonese community established decades ago in its western section, where Cantonese residents have a communal venue to shop, work, and socialize, Brooklyn's Chinatown is very quickly losing its Cantonese community identity.[31]

Elmhurst, another neighborhood in Queens, also has a large and growing Chinese community.[32] Previously a small area with Chinese shops on Broadway between 81st Street and Cornish Avenue, this new Chinatown has now expanded to 45th Avenue and Whitney Avenue.

Avenue U in Homecrest, Brooklyn supports New York City's newest Chinatown, as evidenced by the growing number of Chinese-run fruit markets, restaurants, beauty and nail salons, and computer and consumer electronics dealers. Bensonhurst, Brooklyn also supports one of New York City's newest Chinatowns, again evidenced by a growing number of Chinese food markets, restaurants, and other local businesses.


For much of the New York City Chinese community's history, Taishanese was the dominant Chinese dialect.[33] After 1965 an influx of immigrants from Hong Kong made Cantonese the dominant dialect. By 2009, due to an influx of immigrants from Mainland China, the increased influence of Mandarin in the Chinese-speaking world, and a desire of Chinese parents to have their children learn Mandarin, Mandarin is becoming the dominant dialect. In the Manhattan Chinatown many newer immigrants who speak Mandarin live around East Broadway. Sunset Park in Brooklyn and Flushing in Queens have had a lot of Mandarin-speaking Chinese.[34]


World Journal headquarters

The World Journal, one of the largest Chinese-language newspapers outside of Asia, has its headquarters in Whitestone, Queens,[35][36] while The Epoch Times, a multi-lingual, multinational newspaper with a significant Chinese language presence, is headquartered in Manhattan.[37]

Recreation and culture[edit]

The Chinese American experience has been documented at the Museum of Chinese in America in Manhattan's Chinatown since 1980.

The Museum of Chinese in America is located in the Manhattan Chinatown.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Acs Demographic and Housing Estimates 2012 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates New York-Newark-Bridgeport, NY-NJ-CT-PA CSA". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2014-10-03. 
  2. ^ Kirk Semple (June 23, 2011). "Asian New Yorkers Seek Power to Match Numbers". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014-10-03. 
  3. ^ a b Lawrence A. McGlinn (2002). "Beyond Chinatown: Dual Immigration and the Chinese Population of Metropolitan New York City, 2000". Middle States Geographer 35 (1153): 4. Retrieved 2014-10-03. 
  4. ^ a b c d Waxman, Sarah. "The History of New York's Chinatown". Retrieved 2009-05-04. 
  5. ^ Lee, Josephine Tsui Yeh, p. 7,
  6. ^ "ACS DEMOGRAPHIC AND HOUSING ESTIMATES 2012 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates Geographies = New York City, New York". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2014-03-08. 
  7. ^ "Yearbook of Immigration Statistics: 2012 Supplemental Table 2". U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved 2014-03-08. 
  8. ^ "Kings County (Brooklyn Borough), New York QuickLinks". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2014-03-08. 
  9. ^ "Queens County (Queens Borough), New York QuickLinks". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 2014-03-08. 
  10. ^ a b Lee, Josephine Tsui Yeh, p. 8.
  11. ^ Lawrence A. McGlinn, Department of Geography SUNY-New Paltz. "BEYOND CHINATOWN: DUAL IMMIGRATION AND THE CHINESE POPULATION OF METROPOLITAN NEW YORK CITY, 2000, Page 4". Middle States Geographer, 2002, 35: 110–119, Journal of the Middle States Division of the Association of American Geographers. Retrieved 2014-02-28. 
  12. ^ "Chinatown New York City Fact Sheet". Retrieved 2014-02-28. 
  13. ^ "Chinatown". Indo New York. Retrieved 2014-02-28. 
  14. ^ Sarah Waxman. "The History of New York's Chinatown". Mediabridge Infosystems, Inc. Retrieved 2014-02-28. 
  15. ^ David M. Reimers. Still the golden door: the Third ... – Google Books. Retrieved 2014-02-28. 
  16. ^ Semple, Kirk (2009-10-21). "In Chinatown, Sound of the Future Is Mandarin". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-05-25. 
  17. ^ a b c Lam, Jen; Anish Parekh; Tritia Thomrongnawasouvad (2001). "Chinatown: Chinese in New York City". Voices of New York. NYU. Retrieved 2009-05-04. 
  18. ^ Hay, Mark (2010-07-12). "The Chinatown Question;". Capital. Retrieved 2013-09-07. 
  19. ^ Nancy Foner (2001). New immigrants in New York. Columbia University Press. pp. 158–161. ISBN 978-0-231-12414-0. 
  20. ^ Hsiang-shui Chen. "Chinese in Chinatown and Flushing". Retrieved 2010-03-29. 
  21. ^ Semple, Kirk (2009-10-21). "In Chinatown, Sound of the Future Is Mandarin". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-07-16. 
  22. ^ Moskin, Julia (2010-02-09). "Northeast China Branches Out in Flushing". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-04-06. 
  23. ^ "Yearbook of Immigration Statistics: 2012 Supplemental Table 2". U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved 2013-09-05. 
  24. ^ "Yearbook of Immigration Statistics: 2011 Supplemental Table 2". U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved 2013-09-05. 
  25. ^ "Yearbook of Immigration Statistics: 2010 Supplemental Table 2". U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved 2013-09-05. 
  26. ^ John Marzulli (May 9, 2011). "Malaysian man smuggled illegal Chinese immigrants into Brooklyn using Queen Mary 2: authorities". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2013-09-05. 
  27. ^ "Chinese New Year 2012 in Flushing". January 25, 2012. Retrieved 2013-09-05. 
  28. ^ "Brooklyn Chinese-American Association: About BCA". Brooklyn Chinese-American Association. Retrieved 2009-04-22. [dead link]
  29. ^ Zhao, Xiaojian (2010-01-19). "The new Chinese America: Class, economy, and social hierarchy". ISBN 978-0-8135-4692-6. 
  30. ^ "WenZhounese in New York". Retrieved 2010-10-01. 
  31. ^ Voices That Must Be Heard: Fuzhou Province immigration increasing, rivaling Cantonese. Immigrants moving to Eighth Avenue, Brooklyn - New York Community Media Alliance
  32. ^ Marques, Aminda (1985-08-04). "IF YOU'RE THINKING OF LIVING IN; ELMHURST". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved 2009-05-04. 
  33. ^ Semple, Kirk. "In Chinatown, Sound of the Future Is Mandarin." The New York Times. October 21, 2009. p. 2. Retrieved on March 22, 2014.
  34. ^ Semple, Kirk. "In Chinatown, Sound of the Future Is Mandarin." The New York Times. October 21, 2009. p. 1. Retrieved on March 22, 2014.
  35. ^ "Contact Us (Page in Chinese) World Journal. Retrieved on November 19, 2011. "New York Headquarters 141-07 20th Ave. Whitestone, NY 11357"
  36. ^ Machleder, Elaine. "New World, New Look / Chinese-language daily gets a makeover." Newsday. March 30, 1998. A25 News. Retrieved on November 19, 2011. "Its headquarters and printing facilities have been in Whitestone since 1980[...]"
  37. ^ "Contact Us". Epoch Times. Retrieved 2014-03-08.