The number of Asian-Americans in East Harlem is growing, census data shows, as residents continue to leave Manhattan’s Chinatown, no longer home to the highest number of Chinese-born New Yorkers.
Chinatown’s Chinese population dropped nearly 20 percent from 2000, with almost 6,000 residents finding new neighborhoods.
During the same time period, East Harlem’s total Asian population reached 3 percent, according to the 2010 census. Asian residents increased from 520 to 1,766 — a 239 percent increase.
Preston Tan, Asian community liaison for Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito, said both older adults and young families are moving into the area. “They’re all coming here for the same reasons, though: public housing that’s offered up here, cheaper rents and larger spaces for family,” Tan said.
He recently met a Chinese family who had moved into Franklin Plaza and has kids in high school. He’s also met families with children who attend elementary school.
“The Asian population up in Franklin Plaza wasn’t that much in the 1990s, but now through word of mouth, they’re saying there’s cheap rent. The environment is not that bad and people sign up and wait over six to 10 years,” Tan said.
Most of the newcomers have immigrated from Guangdong and Fujian provinces and Taiwan; a majority are Cantonese and Mandarin speakers.
The Chinese-American Planning Council, Inc., a large Asian social service organization, has been helping Chinese communities for five decades. “For individuals that come in, we provide a variety of services, especially for immigrants that are new to the country,” said Eileen Ooi, a development associate.
The Council assists with anything from job searches to after-school programs and food stamp assistance. “I would think if they move to a neighborhood where stores don’t offer services in Chinese, it would be a problem,” said Ooi of new residents.
In addition to East Harlem, Flushing and parts of Brooklyn have also seen an influx of Chinese-Americans.
But Joseph Pereria, director of the CUNY Center for Urban Research, cautioned,”Don’t expect Harlem to become the next Chinatown overnight. The numbers are so small.”
Read more about a neighborhood adapting to a growing Chinese population here.