The New York metropolitan area is home to the largest ethnic Chinese population outside of Asia, constituting the largest metropolitan Asian American group in the United States and the largest Asian-national metropolitan diaspora in the Western Hemisphere. The Chinese American population of New York City was an estimated 812,410 as of 2015.
New York City and the surrounding area, including Long Island and parts of New Jersey, is home to 12 Chinatowns, early U.S. racial ghettos where Chinese immigrants were made to live for economic survival and physical safety that are now known as important sites of tourism and urban economic activity. Six Chinatowns (or nine, including the emerging Chinatowns in Corona and Whitestone, Queens, and East Harlem, Manhattan) are located in New York City proper, and one each is located in Nassau County, Long Island; Edison, New Jersey; and Parsippany-Troy Hills, New Jersey. This excludes fledgling ethnic Chinese enclaves emerging throughout the New York metropolitan area, such as Jersey City, New Jersey; China City of America in Sullivan County, New York; and Dragon Springs in Deerpark, Orange County, New York. The Chinese American community in the New York metropolitan area is rising rapidly in population as well as economic and political influence. Continuing significant immigration from Mainland China, both legal and illegal in origin, has spurred the ongoing rise of the Chinese population in the New York metropolitan area; this immigration and its accompanying growth in the impact of the Chinese presence continue to be fueled by New York's status as an alpha global city, its high population density, its extensive mass transit system, and the New York metropolitan area's enormous economic marketplace.
Among the earliest documented arrivals of Chinese immigrants in New York City were of "sailors and peddlers" in the 1830s and again in 1847, when three students arrived to continue their education in the U.S. One of the scholars, Yung Wing, soon became the first Chinese American to graduate from a U.S. college in 1854, when Wing graduated from Yale University.
Many more Chinese immigrants arrived and settled in Lower Manhattan throughout the 1800s, including a 1870s wave of Chinese immigrants searching for "gold." By 1880, the enclave around Five Points was estimated to have from 200 to as many as 1,100 members. 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. Later, in 1943, the Chinese were given a small quota, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 caused a revival in Chinese immigration, and the community's population gradually increased until 1968, when the quota was lifted and the Chinese American population skyrocketed.
New York City has the largest Chinese population of any city outside of Asia and within the U.S. with an estimated population of 573,388 in 2014, and continues to be a primary destination for new Chinese immigrants. 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. After the City of New York itself, the boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn encompass the largest Chinese populations, respectively, of all municipalities in the United States.
|Rank||Borough||Chinese Americans||Density of Chinese Americans per square mile in municipality||Percentage of Chinese Americans in municipality's population|
|1||Queens, Chinatowns (?) (2014)||237,484||2,178.8||10.2|
|2||Brooklyn, Chinatowns () (2014)||205,753||2,897.9||7.9|
|3||Manhattan, Chinatown () (2014)||107,609||4,713.5||6.6|
|4||Staten Island (2012)||13,620||232.9||2.9|
|5||The Bronx (2012)||6,891||164||0.5|
|New York City (2014)||573,388||1,881.1||6.8|
In 2013, 19,645 Chinese legally immigrated to the New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA core based statistical area from Mainland China, greater than the combined totals for Los Angeles and San Francisco, the next two largest Chinese American gateways; in 2012, this number was 24,763; 28,390 in 2011; and 19,811 in 2010. These numbers do not include the remainder of the New York-Newark-Bridgeport, NY-NJ-CT-PA Combined Statistical Area, nor do they include the significantly smaller numbers of legal immigrants from Taiwan and Hong Kong. There has additionally been a consequential component of Chinese emigration of illegal origin, most notably Fuzhou people from Fujian and Wenzhounese from Zhejiang in mainland China, specifically destined for New York City, beginning in the 1980s.
Quantification of the magnitude of this modality of emigration is imprecise and varies over time, but it appears to continue unabated on a significant basis. As of December 2015, China Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, and China Southern Airlines all served John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), while Air China and Cathay Pacific Airways served both JFK and Newark Liberty International Airport in the New York metropolitan area - and among U.S. carriers, United Airlines flew non-stop from Newark to Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. Hainan Airlines has applied to launch non-stop flights between Tianjin and New York starting June 2016.
Within the Chinese population, New York City is also home to between 150,000 and 200,000 Fuzhounese Americans, who have exerted a large influence upon the Chinese restaurant industry across the United States; the vast majority of the growing population of Fuzhounese Americans have settled in New York.
The Chinese immigrant population in New York City grew from 261,500 foreign-born individuals in 2000 to 350,000 in 2011, representing a more than 33% growth of that demographic. Chinese immigrants represented 12,000 of the country's asylum requests in fiscal year 2013, of which 4,000 applied for asylum to the New York-area asylum office. Due to reports of widespread immigration fraud in the city that were uncovered in 2012, only about 15% of Chinese asylum applications in the New York asylum office were being approved annually as of 2013 , compared to 40% of Chinese asylum requests nationwide.
The Manhattan Chinatown was the original Chinatown.Little Fuzhou in Manhattan is an ethnoculturally distinct neighborhood with the Manhattan Chinatown itself, populated primarily by Fujianese people. The Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn houses another such Little Fuzhou. Queens and Brooklyn are home to other Chinatowns. The Flushing as well as Elmhurst areas of Queens and multiple burgeoning neighborhoods in Brooklyn also have spawned the development of numerous other Chinatowns. Most of Manhattan, as well as Corona in Queens, the Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope areas of Brooklyn, and northeast Staten Island, have also received significant Chinese settlement.
Manhattan's Chinatown holds the highest concentration of Chinese people in the Western Hemisphere. Manhattan's Chinatown is actually divided into two different portions. The western portion is the older and original part of Manhattan's Chinatown, primarily dominated by Cantonese populations and known colloquially as the Cantonese Chinatown. Cantonese were the earlier settlers of Manhattan's Chinatown, originating mostly from Hong Kong and from Taishan in Guangdong Province, as well as from Shanghai. They form most of the Chinese population of the area surrounded by Mott and Canal Streets.
However, within Manhattan's expanding Chinatown lies Little Fuzhou or The Fuzhou Chinatown on East Broadway and surrounding streets, occupied predominantly by immigrants from the Fujian province of Mainland China. They are the later settlers, from Fuzhou, Fujian, forming the majority of the Chinese population in the vicinity of East Broadway. This eastern portion of Manhattan's Chinatown developed much later after the Fuzhou immigrants began moving in.
Areas surrounding "Little Fuzhou" consist of significant numbers of Cantonese immigrants from the Guangdong of China, however the main Cantonese concentration is in the older western portion of Manhattan's Chinatown. Despite the fact that the Mandarin speaking communities were becoming established in Flushing and Elmhurst areas of Queens during the 1980s-90s and even though the Fuzhou immigrants spoke Mandarin often as well, due to their socioeconomic status, they could not afford the housing prices in Mandarin speaking enclaves in Queens, which were more middle class and the job opportunities were limited. They instead chose to settle in Manhattan's Chinatown for affordable housing and as well as the job opportunities that were available such as the seamstress factories and restaurants, despite the traditional Cantonese dominance until the 1990s. Eventually this pattern was repeated in Brooklyn's Sunset Park Chinatown, but at a much larger scale.
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 due the influx of Fuzhou immigrants that often speak Mandarin and as well as there are now more Mandarin speaking visitors coming to visit the neighborhood. 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.
New York City's satellite Chinatowns in Queens, as well as in Brooklyn, are thriving as traditionally urban enclaves, as large-scale Chinese immigration into New York continues, with the largest metropolitan Chinese population outside Asia.
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. It originally started off as Little Taipei or Little Taiwan due to the large Taiwanese population. Due to the then dominance of working class Cantonese immigrants of Manhattan's Chinatown including its poor housing conditions, they could not relate to them and settled in Flushing.
Later on, when other groups of Non-Cantonese Chinese, mostly speaking Mandarin started arriving into NYC, like the Taiwanese, they could not relate to Manhattan's then dominant Cantonese Chinatown, as a result they mainly settled with Taiwanese to be around Mandarin speakers. Later, Flushing's Chinatown would become the main center of different Chinese regional groups and cultures in NYC. By 1990, Asians constituted 41% of the population of the core area of Flushing, with Chinese in turn representing 41% of the Asian population. 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.Mandarin Chinese (including Northeastern Mandarin), Fuzhou dialect, Min Nan Fujianese, Wu Chinese, Beijing dialect, Wenzhounese, Shanghainese, Suzhou dialect, Hangzhou dialect, Changzhou dialect, Cantonese, Hokkien, 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. Given its rapidly growing status, the Flushing Chinatown may have surpassed in size and population the original New York City Chinatown in the Borough of Manhattan, while Queens and Brooklyn vie for the largest Chinese population of any municipality in the United States other than New York City as a whole.
Elmhurst, another neighborhood in Queens, also has a large and growing Chinese community. 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. Since 2000, thousands of Chinese Americans have migrated into Whitestone, Queens (), given the sizeable presence of the neighboring Flushing Chinatown, and have continued their expansion eastward in Queens and into neighboring Nassau County () on Long Island ().
By 1988, 90% of the storefronts on Eighth Avenue in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, were abandoned. Chinese immigrants then moved into this area, consisting not only of 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 original Brooklyn Chinatown, 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 is now also arriving in Brooklyn's Chinatown. 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.
Like Manhattan's Chinatown during the 1980s-90s before the gentrification period came in, Brooklyn's Chinatown became the main affordable housing center for the Fuzhou immigrants and of job opportunities ranging from seamstress factories and restaurants despite that it was also dominated by Cantonese immigrants in the earlier years.
Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, as well as Avenue U in Homecrest, Brooklyn, in addition to Bay Ridge, Borough Park, Coney Island, Dyker Heights, Gravesend, and Marine Rark, have given rise to the development of Brooklyn's newer satellite Chinatowns, as evidenced by the growing number of Chinese-run fruit markets, restaurants, beauty and nail salons, small offices, and computer and consumer electronics dealers. While the foreign-born Chinese population in New York City jumped 35 percent between 2000 and 2013, to 353,000 from about 262,000, the foreign-born Chinese population in Brooklyn increased 49 percent during the same period, to 128,000 from 86,000, according to The New York Times. The emergence of multiple Chinatowns in Brooklyn is due to the overcrowding and high property values in Brooklyn's main Chinatown in Sunset Park, and many Cantonese immigrants have moved out of Sunset Park into these new areas. As a result, the newer emerging, but smaller Brooklyn's Chinatowns are primarily Cantonese dominated while the main Brooklyn Chinatown is increasingly dominated by Fuzhou emigres.
For much of the overall history of the Chinese community in New York City, Taishanese was the dominant Chinese dialect. After 1965, an influx of immigrants from Hong Kong made Cantonese the dominant dialect for the next three decades.
Later on, during the 1970s-80s, Taiwanese and Fuzhou-speaking immigrants began to arrive into New York City. Taiwanese were settling into Flushing, Queens when it was still predominantly European American, while Fuzhou immigrants were settling in Manhattan's then very Cantonese-dominated Chinatown. The Taiwanese and Fuzhou people were the earliest Chinese immigrants to arrive into New York who spoke Mandarin but not Cantonese, although many spoke their regional Chinese dialects as well.
Since the mid 1990s, an influx of immigrants from various parts of Mainland China began arriving later on eventually, with the increased influence of Mandarin in the Chinese-speaking world, and a desire of Chinese parents to have their children learn this language, Mandarin has been in the process of becoming the dominant lingua franca among the Chinese population of New York City. In the Manhattan Chinatown, many newer immigrants who speak Mandarin live around East Broadway, while Chinatowns in Brooklyn and Queens have also witnessed influxes of Mandarin-speaking Chinese.
However, the different Chinese cultural and language groups as well as socioeconomic statuses are often subdivided among different boroughs of New York City. In Queens, the Chinatowns are very diverse, composed of different Chinese regional groups mainly speaking Mandarin although speaking other dialects as well, and who are more often middle- or upper-middle class. As a result, the Mandarin lingua franca is primarily concentrated in Queens. However, since Manhattan's Chinatown and Brooklyn's Chinese enclaves still hold large Cantonese speaking populations, who were the earlier Chinese immigrants to arrive into New York City with the popularity of Hong Kong Cantonese cuisine and entertainment being widely available, the Cantonese dialect and culture still hold a large influence, and Cantonese is still a lingua franca in those enclaves.
Even though there are very large Fuzhou populations in Manhattan's Chinatown and Brooklyn's Chinese enclaves, many of whom speak Mandarin as well, the influence of Mandarin in those enclaves is as only one of the lingua francas in addition to Cantonese, rather than being the dominant one - unlike in the Chinese enclaves in Queens, where Mandarin is the most dominant lingua franca, despite the presence of a high diversity of Chinese regional languages in Queens - since there are fewer Mandarin speakers besides the Fuzhou population in Manhattan and Brooklyn than in Queens. However, in Brooklyn, Fuzhou speakers predominate in the large Chinatown in Sunset Park, while the several smaller emerging Chinatowns in various sections of Bensonhurst and in Sheepshead Bay are primarily Cantonese, unlike in Manhattan, where the Cantonese enclave and Fuzhou enclave are directly adjacent to each other.
The World Journal, one of the largest Chinese-language newspapers outside of Asia, has its headquarters in Whitestone, Queens, while The Epoch Times, a multi-lingual, multinational newspaper with a significant Chinese language presence, is headquartered in Manhattan. The Hong Kong-based, multinational Chinese-language newspaper Sing Tao Daily maintains its overseas headquarters in Chinatown, Manhattan. The Beijing-based, English-language newspaper China Daily publishes a U.S. edition, which is based in the 1500 Broadway skyscraper in Times Square. In addition, the Global Chinese Times is published in Edison, Middlesex County, New Jersey.
Chinese Lunar New Year is celebrated annually throughout New York City's Chinatowns. Chinese New Year was signed into law as an allowable school holiday in the State of New York by Governor Andrew Cuomo in December 2014, as absentee rates had run as high as 60% in some New York City schools on this day.
The Shuang Wen School is a public school in Manhattan's Chinatown, also known as P.S. 184M, as part of the New York City Department of Education, that offers a dual-language instructional program in Mandarin and English. The Huaxia Edison Chinese School operates in Edison, New Jersey as a branch of the Huaxia Chinese School system. Chinese Americans compose a disproportionate enrollment relative to the general population in the nine elite public high schools of New York City, including Stuyvesant High School and Bronx Science High School.
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The political stature of Chinese Americans in New York City has become prominent. As of 2017, Guo Wengui, a Chinese billionaire turned political activist, has been in self-imposed exile in New York City, where he owns a $US68 million apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, overlooking Central Park. He has continued to conduct a political agenda to bring attention to alleged corruption in the Chinese political system from his New York home.Taiwan-born John Liu, former New York City Council member representing District 20, which includes Flushing Chinatown and other northern Queens neighborhoods, was elected to his current position of New York City Comptroller in November 2009, becoming the first Asian American to be elected to a citywide office in New York City.. Concomitantly, Peter Koo, born in Shanghai, was elected to succeed Liu to assume this council membership seat. Margaret Chin became the first Chinese American woman representing Manhattan's Chinatown on the New York City Council, elected in 2009. Grace Meng is a member of the United States House of Representatives, representing New York's 6th congressional district in Queens since 2009. Of the more than 2,100 Asian Americans within the uniformed ranks of the New York Police Department in 2015 - about 6 percent of the total - roughly half were Chinese American, police statistics show, a number which has grown tenfold since 1990.
The economic influence of Chinese in New York City is growing as well. The majority of cash purchases of New York City real estate in the first half of 2015 were transacted by Chinese as a combination of overseas Chinese and Chinese Americans. The top three surnames of cash purchasers of Manhattan real estate during that time period were Chen, Liu, and Wong. Chinese have also invested billion of dollars into New York commercial real estate since 2013. According to China Daily, the ferris wheel under construction on Staten Island, slated to be among the world's tallest and most expensive with an estimated cost of US$500 million, has received US$170 million in funding from approximately 300 Chinese investors through the U.S. EB-5 immigrant investor program, which grants permanent residency to foreign investors in exchange for job-creating investments in the United States, with Chinese immigrating to New York City dominating this list. Chinese billionaires have been buying New York property to be used as pied-à-terres, often priced in the tens of millions of U.S. dollars each, and as of 2016, middle-class Chinese investors were purchasing real estate in New York. Chinese companies have also been raising billions of dollars on stock exchanges in New York via initial public offerings.
Water purity and availability are a lifeline for the economy of Chinese Americans in New York City, particularly in the Chinatowns. New York City is supplied with drinking water by the protected Catskill Mountains watershed. As a result of the watershed's integrity and undisturbed natural water filtration system, New York is one of only four major cities in the United States the majority of whose drinking water is pure enough not to require purification by water treatment plants. The Croton Watershed north of the city is undergoing construction of a US$3.2 billion water purification plant to augment New York City's water supply by an estimated 290 million gallons daily, representing a greater than 20% addition to the city's current availability of water. The ongoing expansion of New York City Water Tunnel No. 3, an integral part of the New York City water supply system, is the largest capital construction project in the city's history, with segments serving Manhattan and The Bronx completed, and with segments serving Brooklyn and Queens planned for construction in 2020. Much of northern and central New Jersey is provided by reservoirs to provide fresh water, but numerous municipal wells exist which accomplish the same purpose.
There is no other place in the world like Dragon Springs. It combines the natural beauty of New York State with ancient Chinese architecture, performing arts, academic learning, and spiritual meditation.
The biggest political story in China this year isn't in Beijing. It isn't even in China. It's centered at a $68 million apartment overlooking Central Park in Manhattan.
aroline Chen is a reporter for Bloomberg News in New York.