Is Manhattan’s Chinatown shrinking?

Chinatown population shrinking
Fueled by gentrification, New York City’s Chinatown is shrinking, according to a report by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Credit: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Chinatown is shrinking, a new report suggests.

Fueled by gentrification, the Asian population and the number of family households in Chinatown and the Lower East Side have decreased in the last decade, according a report by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

“Chinatowns have provided the city’s immigrants with support networks and affordable housing for over a century,” Bethany Li, staff attorney at AALDEF, said in a statement. “Gentrification and ongoing redevelopment projects, however, threaten to destroy the sustainability of these once-thriving immigrant communities.”

The report, released Wednesday, details displacement of Asian Americans from Chinatowns in New York City, Boston and Philadelphia using census data.

The steady decline of shared family households, which decreased 12.6 percent from 2000 to 2010, is the one of the most meaningful indicators of Chinatown’s shrinking population in New York, the report says.

As the neighborhood’s family population retreats, young urban professions — also known as yuppies — take over.

The number of people living in Chinatown in non-family households increased 21.4 percent in just a decade.

The report also points out the increase in high-end clothing stores and restaurants, as well as the emergence of non-Asian restaurants, in traditional Chinatown boundaries.

Relaxed rent regulation and Chinatown’s designation as a Business Improvement District in 2011 are largely to blame for this gentrification, AALDEF said.

“The gentrification that threatens to transform these areas is not just the natural result of market forces or the general evolution of these cities,” Li said. “They are a very direct result of local policies of neglect, demolition and redevelopment that local governments have perpetuated for decades.”

The report recommends reinforcing existing low-income housing, as apposed to simply designating a portion of units as such in new developments.

Follow Anna Sanders on Twitter: @AnnaESanders


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