Little Fuzhou
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Little Fuzhou

Little Fuzhou
Fukien American.jpg
The Fukien American Association on East Broadway
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Literal meaningEast Broadway Quarter

Little Fuzhou (Chinese: ; pinyin: Xi?o Fúzh?u; Foochow Romanized: Si?u-hók-ci?), or Fuzhou Town (Chinese: ; pinyin: Fúzh?u Bù; Foochow Romanized: Hók-ci?-pú), is a neighborhood in the Two Bridges and Lower East Side areas of the borough of Manhattan in New York City in the United States. In recent decades the neighborhood has become a prime destination for immigrants from Fuzhou, Fujian, China. The term is now also being used to describe a similar neighborhood developing rapidly in the adjacent borough of Brooklyn. Manhattan's Little Fuzhou is centered on the street of East Broadway, bordering its main Chinatown / Manhattan's Little Hong Kong/Guangdong.


Early history

East Broadway was once a main street of a large Jewish community based in the Lower East Side. Over the years, Puerto Ricans[1][2] and African-Americans[3] began to settle on the street too. During the 1960s, an influx of immigrants from Hong Kong[4] and Vietnam[5] began finding their homes on East Broadway and the areas surrounding it. Slowly, the Puerto Ricans, the Jews, and the African-Americans began moving out of the area.[6]

Manhattan enclave

It was during the 1980s when an influx of illegal immigrants from Fuzhou, especially Changle, Fuqing, and Lianjiang flooded East Broadway and a Little Fuzhou enclave evolved on the street, it became fully part of Chinatown, also known as the New Chinatown of Manhattan.

The Fuzhou immigrants could often speak Mandarin in addition to their native Fuzhounese language (also known as Fuzhou dialect). While all of the other Mandarin speakers were settling in and creating a more Mandarin-speaking Chinatown or Mandarin Town () in Flushing's Chinatown and Elmhurst, Queens because they could not relate to the traditional Cantonese dominance in Manhattan's Chinatown, the Fuzhou immigrants were the only exceptional non-Cantonese Chinese group to largely settle in Manhattan's Chinatown. This is due to the Mandarin speaking enclaves being too middle class and expensive and since many Fuzhou immigrants came without immigration paperwork and forced into low paying jobs, Manhattan's Chinatown was the only place for them to be around other Chinese people and receive affordable housing despite Manhattan's Chinatown's traditional Cantonese dominance that lasted until the 1990s[7][8][9][10][11]

Chatham Square and Lin Zexu Statue
Little Fuzhou (on East Broadway) as seen from the Manhattan Bridge.

This street within Manhattan's Chinatown became a central hub for these recently arrived Fujianese immigrants.

Since the Fuzhou immigrants spoke Eastern Min and not Cantonese, as well as their cultural differences and economical background, they were not able to integrate well into Manhattan's Chinatown, which was extremely Cantonese-dominated and as a result, they began to settle on East Broadway, which was still not fully Chinese populated and in addition to higher rates of available housing vacancies, which was another reason why they settled there. Eventually they would create their own Fuzhou Chinatown east of the Bowery. The Fuzhou part of Chinatown is known as the New Chinatown of Manhattan and it is separate from what is known as the Old Chinatown or Original Chinatown of Manhattan, which is the long-established Cantonese Chinatown going from the Bowery to the western of part of Chinatown. In addition, the emergence of Little Fuzhou has helped Manhattan's Chinatown maintain the Chinese population.[12] It further completed the full development of it being part of Chinatown and this street went from once being very quiet of only moderate Chinese population to a very full active lively Chinese business district scene.[11][13][14][15]

[16][17] The Bowery is the divider between the long-established Old Cantonese Chinatown and very recently established New Fuzhou Chinatown.[18] When Manhattan's Chinatown was still vastly Cantonese-dominated and before the large Fuzhou influx, the Bowery was the original eastern borderline of Manhattan's Chinatown. The Fuzhou part of Chinatown primarily concentrated on the East Broadway and Eldridge Street portion became what is known as the New Chinatown of Manhattan and contributed to Manhattan's Chinatown growing and developing further east onto the Lower East Side in contrast to before when this portion was moderately Chinese populated.[19] More than half are undocumented immigrants.[20]

With a large Fuzhou population, East Broadway is often referred to as Little Fuzhou by Fuzhou immigrants.[21] A considerable number of Fujianese clan associations can be found in and around the street, many of which are even specified by clans from certain villages of Fuzhou region, for example, the members of "Fujian Fuqi Association" are from Fuqi Village, Changle County, Fuzhou, Fujian. The Fukien American Association is also located here. Restaurants, markets and intercity bus lines run by Foochowese concentrate in East Broadway.[21][22][23] A statue of Lin Zexu, who was also a Fuzhouese, was erected in Chatham Square in 1997.[24]

During the 1980s, housing prices were dropping in Manhattan's Chinatown, but when the Fuzhou influx came in during the 1990s, property values increased very fast allowing landlords to make twice as much income. This also happened in Flushing, Queens and also very recently in Chinatown, Brooklyn, which is now on its way to become Brooklyn's Little Fuzhou.[25][26]

When an influx of Fuzhou immigrants began to arrive during the 1980s and 1990s, they were entering into a Chinese community that was very vastly Cantonese-dominated. With many of them being unable to speak Cantonese and because of their illegal statuses, many of them were denied jobs and many resulted in criminal activities to survive a living, which later began to dominate the crimes that were going on in Manhattan's Chinatown.[27]

Despite the Fuzhou population being large, the Cantonese population are still large on the Lower East Side, especially with the large Cantonese community established a long time ago in the western/historic (Chinatown's original size) portion of Chinatown also still being the main Chinese commercial business district for all of Manhattan's Chinatown and with the Chinatown Chinese businesses still mostly Cantonese owned along with Cantonese residing in more affluent areas also being important customers of Manhattan's Chinatown, the Cantonese language still remains important even though Mandarin is becoming the lingua franca of Chinatown allowing Cantonese to influence the cultural standards and economic resources of Chinatown. This influenced many Fuzhou people in Manhattan's Chinatown to learn the Cantonese language to maintain jobs and as advantages to bring Cantonese customers to additionally contribute to their businesses, especially the large businesses like the dim sum restaurants on East Broadway. Due to the Fuzhou immigrants having the most interaction with Cantonese people than other groups of Chinese, the Fuzhou immigrants that can speak Cantonese constitute the vast majority of Non-Cantonese Chinese people that can speak Cantonese in NYC. Although the eastern portion of Chinatown is now predominantly Fuzhou populated, there are still some long time Cantonese residents and businesses that remained behind and got caught in the Fuzhou enclave that emerged in addition to the fact that the western portion of Chinatown is still dominantly Cantonese populated.

Parallel to Mott Street for the Cantonese, East Broadway is the same for the Fuzhou immigrants. Within the Fuzhou population throughout NYC, many of them illegally subdivide apartments into small spaces to rent to other Fuzhou immigrants and East Broadway has the most shocking results of it including having many bunk beds within one tiny space.[28] The earliest illegal Fuzhou immigrants came as early as the 1970s starting mostly with men. Similar to the early Cantonese male immigrants that had arrived over establishing New York's Chinatown in the late 1800s on Mott Street, Pell Street and Doyers Street and eventually being able to bring their families into America, the Fuzhou immigration pattern started out similarly with mostly men arriving first and then later on bringing their families over.[29][30][31][32][33]

Relative transfer of presence to Brooklyn

Since the 2000s, the growth of newly arriving Fuzhou immigrants to Manhattan's Chinatown began to slow down, as the epicenter of Fuzhou immigration has relocated to Brooklyn due to increasing gentrification in Manhattan's Chinatown.[34] Some Chinese landlords, especially many real estate agencies in Manhattan's Chinatown mainly of Cantonese descent, have been accused of prejudice against the Fuzhou immigrants, supposedly making Fuzhou immigrants feel unwelcome with concerns that they will not be able to pay rent secondary to debt to gangs that may have helped smuggled them in illegally into the United States and out of fear that gangs will come up to the apartments to cause trouble.[35][36] There is also supposedly concern that Fujianese are more likely to make the apartments too overcrowded by subdividing an apartment into multiple very tiny spaces to rent to other Fuzhou immigrants. Manhattan's Little Fuzhou has perhaps the most blatant results of illegal apartment subdivisions including having many bunk beds in just one small room.[37] As a result of fear of being evicted by Cantonese landlords, many Fuzhou immigrants resorted to renting a tiny space from Fujianese landlords inside apartments already occupied by other Fuzhou immigrants.

Especially, since the 2010s, the Fuzhou population has been steadily declining. Many have moved out once they made more money and purchased apartments and houses outside of Manhattan, especially many of them moved to Brooklyn's Chinatown for cheaper rent prices and more space and transforming the neighborhood into the second Little Fuzhou of NYC and challenging Manhattan's Chinatown's Little Fuzhou as the primary Fuzhou cultural center in NYC.

Especially since many new real estate developers, who are not of Chinese descent have been increasingly and aggressively purchasing more and more apartment buildings in Manhattan's Chinatown including in the Little Fuzhou portion, many Chinese residents have been subjected to harassment in an attempt to force them out of the affordable housing units with the desire to rent to more higher level income professionals.

Mass evictions

However, in the eastern portion of Manhattan's Chinatown, whose apartment buildings carry the vast majority of the Fuzhou population, more than half of the Fuzhou-occupied apartments have been illegally subdivided into multiple rooms with many beds, running them as extremely overcrowded hotels, many of whose residents do not have leases. As a result, as new real estate developers and landlords are purchase more apartment buildings in the eastern Fuzhou section of Manhattan's Chinatown, the newer landlords legally evict tenants, allowing them to renovate apartment units and charge higher rent prices to higher-income households. This has mostly happened on the blocks and streets bordering the Seward Park area, Two Bridges, and the Lower East Side, which are more culturally mixed and much more gentrified, but it has recently spread deeper into the Fuzhou enclave.

There have also been many city officials cracking down on illegally subdivided units and kicking out occupants throughout Manhattan's Chinatown, but especially in the Fuzhou section, and Fuzhou tenant occupied apartments have been the main targets of these crackdowns.

Because many Fuzhou immigrants lack immigration paperwork, they often cannot find good paying jobs and often working for cash, unlike the Cantonese immigrants that are more likely to have the legal residency paperwork and can find better paying jobs. As a result, many Fuzhou tenants have had to resort to illegal apartment subdivision and rent their spaces to many other Fuzhou tenants to be able to pay the rent, especially since most of the Fuzhou tenants in Manhattan's Chinatown arrived during the 1990s, when the rent was increasingly becoming expensive.

As with their Cantonese counterparts in Manhattan's Chinatown, especially including the older western Cantonese portion of Manhattan's Chinatown, they are more likely to have legal paperwork to be in the country and have been longer time residents with affordable rent stabilized leases, which many arrived during the 1980s and earlier when the rents were more affordable. As a result, not as many needed to resort to illegally subdivide apartment spaces and rent their spaces to an excessive number of people to share the rent. Therefore, on a legal basis, they are often much harder to be forced out by the newer landlords despite the fact that the newer landlords continuously find ways to force them out as well.

All of these factors together is putting possible danger of Little Fuzhou shrinking very significantly in the near future. [38][39][40][41][42][43][44][45][46][47][48][49][50]

Little Fuzhou, Brooklyn (?)

Rise of New York's new Fuzhou cultural center in Brooklyn

The increasing Fuzhou influx to New York City has shifted to the Brooklyn Chinatown () located in Brooklyn's Sunset Park neighborhood, which was originally Cantonese dominated, in the 2000s because not only has Manhattan's Chinatown has become too expensive to afford housing, it has also become overcrowded, but also given their desire to continue to live in a Chinese community. This newer Chinatown within New York City's borough of Brooklyn was now the most affordable large Chinese enclave of NYC, which is why it became the most preferable Chinese enclave for the Fuzhou influx to settle in, especially with increasing influx of Fuzhou homeowners who have subdivided their homes into apartments like many other ethnic immigrants have done once they became successful homeowners. This has opened opportunities as well provided as a new nexus for newly arriving Fuzhou immigrants to New York City to rent an apartment in Brooklyn's Chinatown by Fuzhou landlords with supposedly less housing discrimination in contrast to Cantonese landlords who are perceived to be more likely not to want Fuzhou tenants in their properties. However, there have been cases where Fuzhou landlords as well have discriminated against Fuzhou tenants by charging high rent prices.

Brooklyn's Chinatown has become the satellite Little Fuzhou of New York City and have surpassed and challenged the one within Manhattan's Chinatown as NYC's primary Fuzhou culture center. Property values have risen substantially due to the rapidly increasing Fuzhou population concentration in Brooklyn.

Reputation as Chinatown's Wall Street

East Broadway has been very well known to be in the middle of what is known as the "Wall Street" of Manhattan's Chinatown, based upon the actual Wall Street located further downtown which has spawned the metonym for the financial industry, due to the significant number of Chinese-owned financial institutions concentrated on this street and surrounding streets. The banks that are located on this Wall Street of Chinatown are Asia Bank, United Orient Bank, and CitiBank (corner of Mott Street) on Chatham Square. First American International Bank (formerly Hong Kong Bank) and Abacus Federal Savings Bank on the Bowery.[51][52][53][54][55] Onto East Broadway are Cathay Bank (formerly the Golden City Bank),[56]East West Bank (formerly the Hang Seng Bank),[57] a second Chinatown branch of First American International Bank and formerly named as Glory China Tower in the former spot of the Pagoda theater, the HSBC bank.[58][59][60] A Cantonese newspaper company named Wah May Press was also located on 9 East Broadway.[61]

Chinese gangs in the past

Cantonese gangs

East Broadway was once known to be one of the territories of Cantonese gangsters of Manhattan's Chinatown. The Golden Star Bar, which was once located on 9 East Broadway, was a place where Chinese gangs of a previous era often congregated.

A man named Herbert Liu, a former Hong Kong police officer had immigrated to Manhattan's Chinatown in the late 1960s. After arriving, later on Herbert Liu had encountered a gang member of Chinatown named Benny Ong, who was the boss of the Hip Sing Gang at the time and trying to recruit Liu to be a gang member. Herbert Liu had some meetings with Ong, which influenced him during the 1980s to begin making East Broadway and Division Street from Chatham Square to Market Street as his territories with a promise of riches from Hong Kong.

Liu recruited restaurateurs, merchants, and gambling house operators and enlisted former gang members that were forced out of the gangs of the old Chinatown on Mott Street and Pell Street. Chinatown then had gained another Tong (? Táng) or known as in English translation, gathering place. Liu named his gang organization as Freemasons, borrowing the name from the time period of 19th century when there was uprising against the Manchu. Liu had rented out a basement located on 52 East Broadway where it was a combination of headquarters and gaming hall.

The Ghost Shadows Gang, which had dominance over Mott Street had expressed concern about this new gang that had emerged and eventually leading to gang violence in the Golden Star Bar on East Broadway in 1982 resulting in three members of the Freemasons gang murdered. The Freemasons gang then fell apart and their attempted dominance over East Broadway never continued to grow.[10]

There was one incident 1977 where Nei Wong, the leader of the Ghost Shadows was hanging with a Hong Kong cop's girlfriend close to underneath the Manhattan Bridge on East Broadway in the Chinese Quarter Nightclub and that Hong Kong cop that had arrived over witnessed them and then pulled out his police gun and brutally murdered them. With Nei Wong gone, Nicky Louie took over his spot in the Ghost Shadows gang.[4][62][63][64]

In May 1985, a gang-related shooting injured seven people, including a 4-year-old boy, at 30 East Broadway. Two males, who were 15 and 16 years old and were members of a Chinese street gang, were arrested and convicted.[65][66]

Fuzhounese gangs

Today, the most known recent gangs on East Broadway are now from Fuzhou, Fujian of China since this street is now the main gathering center for Fuzhou immigrants. The Fuzhou gangs that are known are the Fuk Ching, the Snakehead (gang), which are well known to smuggle illegal immigrants from Fuzhou to the United States and other countries and the Tung On Gang.

The Tung On gang was established between the 1980s-90s on East Broadway where they ran a gambling parlor. Parallel to the Cantonese Tong Gangs that had dominated the long-established Cantonese community in the western section of Chinatown, the Fuzhou gangs were the same for the Fuzhou community that was emerging in the 1990s, which made Manhattan's Chinatown expand past its original traditional borderlines further east onto the Lower East Side. A man named Alan Man Sin Lau, the leader of the Fukien American Association, gained a status like Benny Ong did with the Cantonese.

The Fuk Ching gang members are often the workers of the Snakehead gang where they would be the ones to collect money from the illegal Fuzhou immigrants who owed money to the Snakeheads, which they had borrowed to come over to the United States. Sometimes, the Fuk Ching gang members would hold the migrants hostage and even violently beat them until they paid up the loans they owed.

Although the Fuzhou Gangs are more recent than the Cantonese gangs in Chinatown, they have been around as early as the 1980s prior to the time when the Cantonese Freemasons gang were attempting to claim East Broadway as its own territories, which fell apart after three Freemason gang members were killed in gang violence.[67][68][69]

See also


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