Chinatown Manhattan (the are actually 7 Chinatowns in New York City) is an exciting, vibrant, busy part of New York. It is the home to the largest Chinese population in one place in the Western hemisphere, bordering the Lower East Side to its east and Little Italy to its north.
There is a lot going on at street level, and even more going on that’s not immediately obvious. For example I stumbled upon a place that looked like nothing more than a small store with small street frontage. When I walked in, the entire ground level of that block was a market – I thought I was back in Hong Kong such was the vibe and what was on sale.
Chinatown has been around for a long time. In the 1840s, a Chinese man by the name of Ah Ken permanently moved to the area that is now Chinatown. He was the first Chinese person to be recorded as a permanent resident in the area and set up a successful cigar shop.
The background of Chinese immigrants in Chinatown is mixed. In the 1960s, when major immigration reform was passed in the United States, a large number of Cantonese speaking immigrants, mainly from Hong Kong, moved into the area. Since the 1980s, Mandarin speaking immigrants from mainland China have been the predominant group moving to the area.
Chinatown is a very vibrant area and there’s always something going on. Just observing people going about their day-to-day lives is interesting.
This is the entrance to Manhattan from Jersey via the Holland Tunnel.
Little Italy used to be a lot larger than it is today. Nowadays it has been reduced to barely more than one street across two blocks within Chinatown and is very much an area that caters towards tourists looking for a taste of nostalgia – the Little Italy they see in the old movies. Chinatown, on the other hand, is all about the locals.