Little Fuzhou

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Fukien American.jpg
Fukien American Association at East Broadway
Traditional Chinese 東百老匯
Simplified Chinese 东百老汇
Little Fuzhou
Chinese 小福州

Little Fuzhou (小福州, 紐約華埠), or Fuzhou Town (福州埠), a prime destination status for immigrants from the Fujian Province of China, is a neighborhood in the Chinatown and Lower East Side areas of the borough of Manhattan in New York City in the United States. The term is now also being used to describe a similar neighborhood developing rapidly in the adjacent borough of Brooklyn. Manhattan's Little Fuzhou is centered around the street of East Broadway.

Early history[edit]

East Broadway was originally home to a large Jewish community on the Lower East Side and then later on Puerto Ricans began to settle onto this street[1][2] and African Americans were also residing on this street.[3] During the 1960s, an influx of Hong Kong immigrants were arriving,[4] as well as Vietnamese immigrants.[5] Slowly, Puerto Ricans, Jews and African-Americans began to move out of the area, although there is still a large population of these ethnic groups in the nearby Lower East Side.

Little Fuzhou, Manhattan (小福州, 紐約華埠) / Fuzhou Town, Manhattan (福州埠, 紐約華埠)[edit]

It was during the 1980s when an influx of Fuzhou immigrants flooded East Broadway and a Little Fuzhou enclave evolved on the street, it became fully part of Chinatown, also known as the New Chinatown of Manhattan.

The Fuzhou immigrants often speak Mandarin along with their Fuzhou dialect and while all of the other Mandarin speakers were settling in and creating a more Mandarin-Speaking Chinatown or Mandarin Town (國語埠) in Flushing's Chinatown, and an even smaller one in Elmhurst all in Queens because they could not relate to the traditional Cantonese dominance in Manhattan's Chinatown, the Fuzhou immigrants were the only exceptional Non-Cantonese Chinese group to largely settle in Manhattan's Chinatown. This is due to the Mandarin speaking enclaves being too middle class and expensive and since many Fuzhou immigrants came without immigration paperwork and forced into low paying jobs, Manhattan's Chinatown was the only place for them to be around other Chinese people and receive affordable housing despite Manhattan's Chinatown's traditional Cantonese dominance that lasted until the 1990s[6][7][8][9][10]

Chatham Square and Lin Zexu Statue
Little Fuzhou (on East Broadway) as seen from the Manhattan Bridge.

This street within Manhattan's Chinatown became a central hub for these recently arrived Fujianese immigrants.

Since the Fuzhou immigrants spoke a completely different Chinese provincial language and because of their cultural differences, they were not able to integrate well into Manhattan's Chinatown, which was extremely Cantonese-dominated and as a result, they began to settle on East Broadway, which was still not fully Chinese populated and in addition to higher rates of available housing vacancies, which was another reason why they settled there. Eventually they would create their own Fuzhou Chinatown east of the Bowery. The Fuzhou part of Chinatown is known as the New Chinatown of Manhattan and it is separate from what is known as the Old Chinatown or Original Chinatown of Manhattan, which is the long-established Cantonese Chinatown going from the Bowery to the western of part of Chinatown. In addition, the emergence of Little Fuzhou has helped Manhattan's Chinatown maintain the Chinese population.[11] It further completed the full development of it being part of Chinatown and this street went from once being very quiet of only moderate Chinese population to a very full active lively Chinese business district scene.[10][12][13][14]

[15][16] The Bowery is the divider between the long-established Old Cantonese Chinatown and very recently established New Fuzhou Chinatown.[17] When Manhattan's Chinatown was still vastly Cantonese-dominated and before the large Fuzhou influx, the Bowery was the original eastern borderline of Manhattan's Chinatown. The Fuzhou part of Chinatown primarily concentrated on the East Broadway and Eldridge Street portion became what is known as the New Chinatown of Manhattan and contributed to Manhattan's Chinatown growing and developing further east onto the Lower East Side in contrast to before when this portion was moderately Chinese populated.[18] More than half are illegal immigrants.[19]

With a large Fuzhou population, East Broadway is often referred to as Little Fuzhou by Fuzhou immigrants.[20] A considerable number of Fujianese clan associations can be found in and around the street, many of which are even specified by clans from certain villages of Fuzhou region, for example, the members of "Fujian Fuqi Association" are from Fuqi Village, Changle County, Fuzhou, Fujian. The Fukien American Association is also located here. Restaurants, markets and intercity bus lines run by Foochowese concentrate in East Broadway.[20][21][22] A statue of Lin Zexu, who was also a Fuzhouese, was erected in Chatham Square in 1997.[23]

During the 1980s, housing prices were dropping in Manhattan's Chinatown, but when the Fuzhou influx came in during the 1990s, property values increased very fast allowing landlords to make twice as much income. This also happened in Flushing, Queens and also very recently in Chinatown, Brooklyn, which is now on its way to become Brooklyn's Little Fuzhou.[24][25]

When an influx of Fuzhou immigrants began to arrive during the 1980s and 1990s, they were entering into a Chinese community that was very vastly Cantonese-dominated. With many of them being unable to speak Cantonese and because of their illegal statuses, many of them were denied jobs and many resulted in criminal activities to survive a living, which later began to dominate the crimes that were going on in Manhattan's Chinatown.[26]

Despite the Fuzhou population being large, the Cantonese population are still large on the Lower East Side, especially with the large Cantonese community established a long time ago in the western/historic(Chinatown's original size) portion of Chinatown also still being the main Chinese commercial business district for all of Manhattan's Chinatown and with the Chinatown Chinese businesses still mostly Cantonese owned along with Cantonese residing in more affluent areas also being important customers of Manhattan's Chinatown, the Cantonese language still remains important even though Mandarin is becoming the lingua franca of Chinatown allowing Cantonese to influence the cultural standards and economic resources of Chinatown. This influenced many Fuzhou people in Manhattan's Chinatown to learn the Cantonese language to maintain jobs and as advantages to bring Cantonese customers to additionally contribute to their businesses, especially the large businesses like the dim sum restaurants on East Broadway. Due to the Fuzhou immigrants having the most interaction with Cantonese people than other groups of Chinese, the Fuzhou immigrants that can speak Cantonese constitute the vast majority of Non-Cantonese Chinese people that can speak Cantonese in NYC.

Parallel to Mott Street for the Cantonese, East Broadway is the same for the Fuzhou immigrants. Within the Fuzhou population throughout NYC, many of them illegally subdivide apartments into small spaces to rent to other Fuzhou immigrants and East Broadway has the most shocking results of it including having many bunk beds within one tiny space.[27] The earliest illegal Fuzhou immigrants came as early as the 1970s starting mostly with men. Similar to the early Cantonese male immigrants that had arrived over establishing New York's Chinatown in the late 1800s on Mott Street, Pell Street and Doyers Street and eventually being able to bring their families into America, the Fuzhou immigration pattern started out similarly with mostly men arriving first and then later on bringing their families over.[28][29][30][31][32]

Little Fuzhou, Brooklyn (小福州, 布鲁克林華埠) / Fuzhou Town, Brooklyn (福州埠, 布鲁克林華埠)[edit]

Since the 2000s, the growth of newly arriving Fuzhou immigrants to Manhattan's Chinatown began to slow down and now the already current Fuzhou population is slowly declining due to increasing gentrification in Chinatown.[33] Some Chinese landlords, especially the many real estate agencies in Manhattan's Chinatown mainly of Cantonese descent, have been accused of prejudice against the Fuzhou immigrants, supposedly making Fuzhou immigrants feel unwelcome with concerns that they will not be able to pay rent secondary to debt to gangs that may have helped smuggled them in illegally into the United States and out of fear that gangs will come up to the apartments to cause trouble.[34][35] There is also supposedly concern that Fujianese are more likely to make the apartments too overcrowded by subdividing an apartment into multiple very tiny spaces to rent to other Fuzhou immigrants. Manhattan's Little Fuzhou has perhaps the most blatant results of illegal apartment subdivisions including having many bunk beds in just one small room.[36] As a result of fear of being evicted by Cantonese landlords, many Fuzhou immigrants resort to renting a tiny space from Fujianese landlords inside apartments already occupied by Fuzhou immigrants.

The increasing Fuzhou influx to New York City has shifted to the Brooklyn Chinatown (布鲁克林華埠 唐人街) located in Brooklyn's Sunset Park neighborhood, which was originally Cantonese dominated, in the 2000s because not only has Manhattan's Chinatown has become too expensive to afford housing, it has also become overcrowded, but also given their desire to continue to live in a Chinese community. This newer Chinatown within New York City's borough of Brooklyn was now the most affordable large Chinese enclave of NYC, which is why it became the most preferable Chinese enclave for the Fuzhou influx to settle in, especially with increasing influx of Fuzhou homeowners who have subdivided their homes into apartments like many other ethnic immigrants have done once they became successful homeowners. This has opened opportunities as well provided as a new nexus for newly arriving Fuzhou immigrants to New York City to rent an apartment in Brooklyn's Chinatown by Fuzhou landlords with supposedly less housing discrimination in contrast to Cantonese landlords who are perceived to be more likely not to want Fuzhou tenants in their properties. However, there have been cases where Fuzhou landlords as well have discriminated against Fuzhou tenants by charging high rent prices.

Brooklyn's Chinatown has become the satellite Little Fuzhou of New York City but may soon surpass the one within Manhattan's Chinatown as such, if not already so. Property values have risen substantially due to the rapidly increasing Fuzhou population concentration in Brooklyn.

If the Mandarin speaking enclaves in Flushing or Elmhurst had been more affordable or if the Mandarin speaking enclaves had settled in a more affordable neighborhood, most likely the Fuzhou immigrants would have largely settled with the Mandarin speaking enclaves to be around other Mandarin speakers and not Manhattan's and Brooklyn's Chinatowns. This is because the Fuzhou immigrants would have been able to communicate a lot more easily in Mandarin and gotten along with the Mandarin speakers linguistically and likely facing lesser economic and social discrimination, whereas when they were largely settling in Manhattan's and Brooklyn's then Cantonese-dominated Chinatowns, which largely didn't speak Mandarin, they were faced with linguistic discrimination and barriers, which also led to them facing social, cultural, and economic discrimination. This means Manhattan's and Brooklyn's Chinatowns would have continued to maintain their almost traditional exclusive Cantonese community permanently, but it also means East Broadway along with Manhattan's eastern Chinatown would have continued to be underdeveloped as part of Chinatown and Brooklyn's Chinatown would have continued to be very small and possibly both of these enclaves would have had trouble maintaining the Chinese population.

Reputation as the "Wall Street" of Chinatown, Manhattan[edit]

East Broadway has been very well known to be in the middle of what is known as the Wall Street of Manhattan's Chinatown (based on the real Wall Street located further downtown) due to the significant number of Chinese-owned financial institutions concentrated on this street and surrounding streets. The banks that are located on this Wall Street of Chinatown are Asia Bank, United Orient Bank, and CitiBank(corner of Mott Street) on Chatham Square. First American International Bank(formerly Hong Kong Bank) and Abacus Federal Savings Bank on the Bowery.[37][38][39][40][41] Onto East Broadway are Bank of China,[42] Cathay Bank(formerly the Golden City Bank),[43] East West Bank(formerly the Hang Seng Bank),[44] a second Chinatown branch of First American International Bank and formerly named as Glory China Tower in the former spot of the Pagoda theater, the HSBC bank.[45][46][47] A Cantonese newspaper company named Wah May Press was also located on 9 East Broadway.[48]

Chinese movie theaters of the past[edit]

In the past, East Broadway was very well known to the area's Chinese population for having two Chinese theaters, as several other Chinese theaters were located in different parts of Chinatown. However, all of the Chinese movie theaters have closed in Chinatown.

Sun Sing Theater[edit]

In 1911, the Florence theater with 980 seats opened under the Manhattan Bridge with the rumbling subways[49] on 75–85 East Broadway showing Yiddish entertainment. Next to the theater, there was also a furniture shop named Solerwitz & Law, est. 1886.

It was then converted as the New Canton Theater in 1942. It featured Cantonese operas and other types of performances such as "Selling Rough", "Beauty on the Palm", and "The Beautiful Butterflies" to name on record. The performances often featured 1,400-year-old Chinese tradition usually based on folklore. Cantonese opera was very often looked down on by westerners as sounding annoying, inhuman and distasteful.

A professional Cantonese opera troupe, Tai Wah Wing came from Hong Kong to New York in 1940 to perform and changed their name to Nau Joek Sen Zung Wa Ban Nam Ney Keik Tin (New York New China Mixed Opera Company) once arriving in New York. Being that they were stranded in New York by World War II with 20 male and 7 female actors along with six musicians, they kept the New Canton Theater active and going for 10 years with their nightly performances of classical Cantonese opera on Mondays-Saturdays from 7 pm-11:30 pm and on Sundays from 6 pm-10:30 pm. At one time in 1941 Claude Lévi-Strauss witnessed their performance while he was in New York serving as a cultural adviser for the French Embassy. When the theater was renamed as Sun Sing theater in 1950, during that same time they once again changed their troupe name to Nam Ney Keik Tin (Mixed Opera Company). Once they discontinued during May 1950, the over-half-century-long tradition of Cantonese opera performances ended in the Chinatown neighborhood and then the Sun Sing theater during the same year began to feature Chinese films with English subtitles included sometimes.

It was in danger of being torn down because of an additional deck being added onto the Manhattan Bridge, but it was saved when city engineers used bridge supports and seats had to be eliminated for the bridge supports. In 1972, the theater started to provide diverse entertainments of film and stage performances. Like many movie theaters, the theater also sold snacks with also Chinese snacks such as preserved plum, dried cuttlefish, and shrimp chips.

During the last 15 years of the theater's existence under the Manhattan Bridge with the B, D, and Q trains rumbling loudly above, it featured wild films involving battles and violence. During its final years with 800 seats, the theater began doing outreach to attract more non-Chinese audiences by adding names of customers onto to their mailing list while handing out hard copies of synopsis translated in English about each movie being shown at the moment to customers. It was finally closed in 1993 with Robert Tam being the final owner.[50][51][52][53][54][55][56][57][58]

Pagoda Theater[edit]

In 1964, Lucas Liang who was a restaurateur and the president of the Catherine enterprises opened the Pagoda theater at 11 East Broadway on the corner of Catherine Street after eight months of construction and after many directors, mostly restaurant operators all together raised $400,000 to build the theater. Paul R. Screvane, president of the City Council at the time was invited as a guest of honor to the ceremony on the opening of the theater.

The seating capacities accommodated 492 seats. The theater featured Chinese films with English subtitles. On the weekend mornings, cartoons in English were shown to children. There was also a room facility where there was a coffee bar selling Chinese and American food products with a color television set.

There was one incident in 1977 where there was a shootout in the crowded theater killing two members of the Ghost Shadows Gang. Michael Chen, a leader of the Flying Dragons of the 70s in Manhattan's Chinatown was convicted and later acquitted for those charges of that incident and he was eventually murdered in 1982. At the time, gang violence was very prevalent in the Chinatown neighborhood including the rivalry of the Ghost Shadows and Flying Dragons.[59]

The theater then closed around the late 1980s to early 1990s. After it was closed, there was one plan by a local builder to build a hotel in the location, but it was later realized that it would not work due to not having the financial resources.

In 1988,[46] Glory China Development Ltd., of Hong Kong bought the property land and opened Glory China Tower in 1991. The bank was a tenant of Ka Wah Bank from Hong Kong owned by CITIC Group located in China. However, it was converted into a HSBC bank much later on.[60][61][62][63][64]

Chinese Gangs In The Past[edit]

Cantonese Gangs[edit]

East Broadway was once known to be one of the territories of Cantonese gangsters of Manhattan's Chinatown. The Golden Star Bar, which was once located on 9 East Broadway, was a place that the Chinese gangs often hung out.

A man named Herbert Liu, a former Hong Kong police officer had immigrated to Manhattan's Chinatown in the late 1960s. After arriving, later on Herbert Liu had encountered a gang member of Chinatown named Benny Ong, who was the boss of the Hip Sing Gang at the time and trying to recruit Liu to be a gang member. Herbert Liu had some meetings with Ong, which influenced him during the 1980s to begin making East Broadway and Division Street from Chatham Square to Market Street as his territories with a promise of riches from Hong Kong.

Liu recruited restaurateurs, merchants, and gambling house operators and enlisted former gang members that were forced out of the gangs of the old Chinatown on Mott Street and Pell Street. Chinatown then had gained another Tong(堂) or known as in English translation, gathering place. Liu named his gang organization as Freemasons, borrowing the name from the time period of 19th century when there was uprising against the Manchu. Liu had rented out a basement located on 52 East Broadway where it was a combination of headquarters and gaming hall.

The Ghost Shadows Gang, which had dominance over Mott Street had expressed concern about this new gang that had emerged and eventually leading to gang violence in the Golden Star Bar on East Broadway in 1982 resulting in three members of the Freemasons gang murdered. The Freemasons gang then fell apart and their attempted dominance over East Broadway never continued to grow.[9]

There was one incident 1977 where Nei Wong, the leader of the Ghost Shadows was hanging with a Hong Kong cop's girlfriend close to underneath the Manhattan Bridge on East Broadway in the Chinese Quarter Nightclub and that Hong Kong cop that had arrived over witnessed them and then pulled out his police gun and brutally murdered them. With Nei Wong gone, Nicky Louie took over his spot in the Ghost Shadows gang.[4][65][66][67]

In May 1985, a gang-related shooting injured seven people, including a 4-year-old boy, at 30 East Broadway. Two males, who were 15 and 16 years old and were members of a Chinese street gang, were arrested and convicted.[68][69]

Fuzhou Gangs[edit]

Today, the most known recent gangs on East Broadway are now from Fuzhou, Fujian of China since this street is now the main gathering center for Fuzhou immigrants. The Fuzhou gangs that are known are the Fuk Ching, the Snakehead (gang), which are well known to smuggle illegal immigrants from Fuzhou to the United States and other countries and the Tung On Gang.

The Tung On gang was established between the 1980s–90s on East Broadway where they ran a gambling parlor. Parallel to the Cantonese Tong Gangs that had dominated the long-established Cantonese community in the western section of Chinatown, the Fuzhou gangs were the same for the Fuzhou community that was emerging in the 1990s, which made Manhattan's Chinatown expand past its original traditional borderlines further east onto the Lower East Side. A man named Alan Man Sin Lau, the leader of the Fukien American Association, gained a status like Benny Ong did with the Cantonese.

The Fuk Ching gang members are often the workers of the Snakehead gang where they would be the ones to collect money from the illegal Fuzhou immigrants who owed money to the Snakeheads, which they had borrowed to come over to the United States. Sometimes, the Fuk Ching gang members would hold the migrants hostage and even violently beat them until they paid up the loans they owed.

Although the Fuzhou Gangs are more recent than the Cantonese gangs in Chinatown, they have been around as early as the 1980s prior to the time when the Cantonese Freemasons gang were attempting to claim East Broadway as its own territories, which fell apart after three Freemason gang members were killed in gang violence.[70][71][72]

Local commercial businesses[edit]

East Broadway Mall[edit]

Under the Manhattan Bridge (B D N Q R trains) lies the "East Broadway Mall" across the street from the previous location of Sun Sing Theater. This mall is the main gathering commercial section for the Fuzhou immigrants in the United States including the 88 Palace Restaurant serving Hong Kong style dim sum meals upstairs of the Mall.[73]

The mall is the center of contributing to the growth of Chinese restaurant businesses all over the United States. Many of the employment agencies are located at this mall sending many of the Fuzhou workers to all-you-can-eat buffets. The opening of Goyow, a Chinese prepaid debit card company, has also contributed to the popularity of this mall, as new Chinese immigrants visit the mall to buy a card that allows them to gain access to a Visa card, which they would be unable to otherwise achieve via traditional banks.[74]

Chinese buses are also stationed at this mall to accommodate the Fuzhou restaurant workers to locations where they have been arranged by the employment agencies.

In the past, there have been issues with the restaurant managers of 88 Palace taking advantage of the Fuzhou workers by taking their tips, making nasty insults and giving them responsibilities that they were not supposed to be assigned to, which then led to lawsuits. Since the managers knew many of them were undocumented, they used their advantage to terminate of their employment of the ones who threatened legal actions against them.[75]

There has also been issues where the mall owners have been accused of illegally increasing the rents at very high rates on tenants who have been longtime small businesses as an attempt to gentrify the mall. This resulted in protests against the mall owners. There have been accusations that the mall owners were prejudice against Fuzhou immigrant shopkeepers and threatened to clean them out of the mall.[76] One example was a female tenant named Mei Rong Song, originally paying rent less than $3,000 a month, it increased dramatically to $12,000 in 2008. Mei Rong Song went into disagreement with her new rent rate and began fighting the eviction proceedings in court. In retaliation, the mall’s managers closed Mei Rong Song's heat and water services to her 280-square-foot (26 m2) space.[77]

The property is city-owned and it was once vacant until in 1985, the city signed a 50-year lease with a developer building the East Broadway Mall. It was originally owned by the Cantonese, the restaurant upstairs was originally named "Triple Eight Palace"[78][79][80] and the shops were primarily Cantonese. However, when East Broadway became the main gathering place for newly arrived Fuzhou immigrants, Fuzhou owned storefronts slowly grew at this mall and over time completely occupying the mall. Eventually the ownership of the mall was entirely sold to Fuzhou owners.[81][82][83][84][85]

New York Supermarket[edit]

Under the Manhattan Bridge, there is also a New York Supermarket serving to the Fuzhou community as the largest Chinese Supermarket selling different food varieties. There was also another large supermarket named Hong Kong Supermarket located on this street, however it was destroyed in a fire. Parallel to this newly established Fuzhou community, another New York Supermarket also opened up on Mott Street and as well as a new Hong Kong Supermarket opened on the corner of Elizabeth Street and Hester Street serving as the largest Chinese supermarkets within the long-established Cantonese community on the other side of Manhattan's Chinatown.[86][86][87][88]

See also[edit]

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External links[edit]

Route map: Google / Bing