Chinatown, Manhattan, New York City
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The Chinatown neighborhood of Manhattan - a borough of New York City - is an ethnic enclave with a large population of Chinese immigrants, similar to other Chinatown districts in American cities.
By the 1980s, it had surpassed San Francisco's Chinatown to become the largest enclave of Chinese immigrants in the Western Hemisphere.
Faced with increasing discrimination and new laws which prevented participation in many occupations on the West Coast, some Chinese immigrants moved to the East Coast cities in search of employment. Early businesses in these cities included hand laundries and restaurants. Chinatown started on Mott Street, Park, Pell and Doyers streets, east of the notorious Five Points district. By 1870, there was a Chinese population of 200. By the time the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 was passed, the population was up to 2,000 residents. By 1900, there were 7,000 Chinese residents, but fewer than 200 Chinese women.
The early days of Chinatown were dominated by Chinese "tongs" (now sometimes rendered neutrally as "associations"), which were a mixture of clan associations, landsman's associations, political alliances (Kuomintang vs Communist Party of China) and (more secretly) crime syndicates. The associations started to give protection from harassment due to anti-Chinese racism. Each of these associations was aligned with a street gang. The associations were a source of assistance to new immigrants - giving out loans, aiding in starting business, and so forth.
The associations formed a governing body named the Chinese Consolidated
Benevolent Association. Though this body was meant to foster
relations between the Tongs, open warfare periodically flared
between the On Leong and Hip Sing tongs. Much of the Chinese
gang warfare took place on Doyers street. Gangs like the Ghost
Shadows and Flying Dragons were prevalent until the 1980s.
The only park in Chinatown, Columbus Park, was built on what was once the center of the infamous Five Points neighborhood of New York. During the 19th century, this was the most dangerous slum area of immigrant New York (as portrayed in the movie Gangs of New York).
Much of Chinatown works in an underground economy, where wages are below the mandated minimum wage and transactions are done in cash to avoid paying taxes. This underground economy is responsible for employment of large numbers of new immigrants who lacked the language skills to seek better jobs. This system attracted the garment industry to use large-scale sweatshops in the Chinatown area. Tourism and restaurants are also major industries.
Chinese green groceries and fish mongers are clustered around Mulberry Street, Canal Street (by Baxter Street) and all along East Broadway (especially by Catherine Street). The Chinese jewelry shop district is on Canal Street between Mott and Bowery. Due to the high savings rate among Chinese, there are many Asian and American banks in the neighborhood. Canal Street, west of Broadway (especially on the North side), is filled with Chinese street vendors selling imitation perfumes, watches, and hand-bags. This section of Canal Street was previously the home of warehouse stores selling surplus/salvage electronics and hardware.
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