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Documented Talks: Chinatown’s precarious present and future

Since the pandemic began, residents of Manhattan’s Chinatown have suffered mass job loss, a drop in business patronage and now, heightened fears over the attacks on Asian New Yorkers throughout the City. Rents have been rising in Chinatown for years as the neighborhood gets increasingly picked off by real estate developers. Longtime residents are being priced out and so are iconic businesses like Jing Fong, a dim sum restaurant whose dining room had to close because of a pandemic-related economic downturn. Amir Khafagy covered that story for Documented in March.

Rong Xiaoqing, a reporter for the Chinese-language newspaper Sing Tao Daily, held Documented’s third online event to discuss the future of Chinatown. Wellington Chen, executive director of the Chinatown BID, spoke about how the Chinatown community helped businesses during the pandemic. He noted that last summer, 312 restaurants were open in Chinatown, but only 29 remain open. Joanne Kwog, president of Pearl River Mart, discussed finding a new location for the longstanding store and the difficulty small businesses in Chinatown underwent this year. Yin Kong, founder of Think! Chinatown, talked about inequity and language barriers within city assistance programs and how her organization reached out to the Chinatown community.

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