The joke went… there are 300 different languages represented in New York and everyone of them has a restaurant on the East Side. At least that was my joke in the sixties.
Throughout its history, New York City has been a major point of entry for immigrants; the term “melting post” was coined to describe densely populated immigrant neighborhoods on the Lower East Side. As many as 800 languages are spoken in New York, making it the most linguistically diverse city in the world.English remains the most widely spoken language, although there are areas in the outer boroughs in which up to 25% of people speak English as an alternate language, and/or have limited or no English language fluency. English is least spoken in neighborhoods such as Flushing, Sunset Park, and Corona. (Wikepedia)
You may note that Sunset Park is mentioned as one of the three neighborhoods where English is least spoken. That is the neighborhood you have heard me speak of so often, the name of my book of short stories, the home of Antoinette, and now the home of Brooklyn’s Chinatown. It is no surprise that I found myself contented in Washington Heights, a neighborhood housing the largest Dominican population in the world, other than the Dominican Republic itself.
I am drawn to cultural diversity like a humming bird to sweet nectar. I relish diversity in everything I do and in most places I live or work.
It is worth your time to watch this entire video. The photography is fantastic.
Written in 1928, this is Nat King Cole’s rendition of The Sidewalks of New York:
Part Four of Romancing the Big Apple features the cultural icon of Manhattan’s Chinatown, a place I loved to roam, to eat and shop, to people watch and to enjoy the long winding streets that lead to Little Italy and the Lower East Side Garment Center.
If like myself, you grew up in any major metropolis in the North East, there was never a question as to whether you had a good Chinese restaurant, the question was where was it and do they deliver?
New York City has the largest concentrated population of Chinese in the US. Jump over a dozen states and settle in San Francisco and wander around the second largest Chinatown in the US.
Betwixt and between there are dozens of other smaller concentrations. Successful in business the Chinese-American population of New York have given new title to the expression nepotism, the mom and pop store, the local laundry, take-out counter, the Asian shops stuffed with statues of Buddha, satin slippers or kimono, Chinese restaurants and green grocers.
Lifted from another time, there is no other place in The City whose sights, sounds and aromas come close to the mystery of Chinatown.
Her narrow, cobblestone streets wind around from one intriguing shop to the next. Ducks, plucked, roasted a bright red and hanging upside down in shop windows, small basement restaurants, dim sum parlors and specialty stores, the mystique and incomprehensible individuality of the culture fascinate those who visit there.
Chinatown is physically located in Lower Manhattan, though culturally it is twelve thousand miles away in the distant and unknowable expanse of China. The residents of Chinatown consider their excitable visitors the foreigners.
Reprint from Wikipedia:
Unlike most other urban Chinatowns, Manhattan’s Chinatown is both a residential area as well as commercial area. Many population estimates are in the range of 90,000 to 100,000 residents. It is difficult to get an exact count, as neighborhood participation in the US Census is thought to be low due to language barriers, as well as large-scale illegal immigration. A minority of Hakka was also represented. Mandarin was rarely spoken by residents even well into the 1980s.
Immigration reform in 1965 opened the door to a huge influx of Cantonese speakers from Hong Kong, and Cantonese became the dominant tongue. But since the late 1980s and 1990s, the vast majority of new Chinese immigrants have come from mainland China, especially Fujian Province, and tend to speak Mandarin along with their regional dialects. Most Fuzhou immigrants are illegal immigrants while most of the Cantonese immigrants are legal immigrants in Manhattan’s Chinatown.
As the epicenter of the massive Fuzhou influx has shifted to Brooklyn in the 2000s, Manhattan’s Chinatown’s Cantonese population still remains viable and large and successfully continues to retain its stable Cantonese community identity, maintaining the communal gathering venue established decades ago in the western portion of Chinatown, to shop, work, and socialize — in contrast to the Cantonese population and community identity which are declining very rapidly in Brooklyn’s Chinatown.
I was born and raised in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Sunset Park, where as teens we grazed along the grassy slopes under giant oaks. Today you can stroll though the park and see instead, small groups of adults doing their daily Tai Chi, or families enjoying a Sunday picnic.
When you visit New York, take a walk, stop to eat at one of the dozens of restaurants, shop in one of its unique shops, stock up on Asian spices, buy a trinket for a friend.
Romancing the tip of the Apple
For those who are attending the RWA National Conference in New York in July, you can enjoy the sights and sounds of Manhattan’s Chinatown from the comfort of the red double-decker buses that make daily tours around the island.
Many of these tours are set for a certain number of hours with unlimited stops that also allow you to get off at different locations and then wait for another bus to come along and continue your touring.
Next week, we will take a ride on the happy red bus so you can see first hand what one day of riding can bring. Hang onto your HEA people, because I always save the best for last. As lovers of romance you will be glad I did.
What makes where you live diverse and
do you have good Chinese take out?
fOIS In The City