A new study tells us what we might’ve guessed from the recent proliferation of ping pong-tabled “event spaces”: gentrification is on the rise in Chinatown and the Lower East Side.
Or so concludes a report studying Asian neighborhoods in Boston, New York and Philadelphia in order to analyze displacement occurring as a result of higher rents (and no, we’re not just talking about ).
“As this downtown land becomes increasingly valuable, gentrification in the form of high-priced real estate transactions, institutional expansion, and commercial development threatens to destroy the places where Asian immigrants have traditionally lived and worked,” says the study, conducted by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Bethany Li, a staff attorney at AALDEF, said one thing in the study surprised her. “I knew there were a lot of small businesses, but the amount recorded was pretty astounding,” she told Bedford + Bowery.
The study shows that 94 percent of commercial space in the study area — which includes Chinatown, the Lower East Side, and Alphabet City east of Avenue C — is used by small businesses, and of these businesses, 12 percent are classified as “high-end,” the most significant cluster of which are between Houston and Delancey Streets, as well as scattered along Allen and Orchard Streets heading towards the more traditional areas of Chinatown.
Other findings about the area:
- The Asian population, currently 42 percent, has remained relatively stable over the past decade. The Hispanic/Latino population is about 26 percent but has decreased in the past decade, while the white population is about 20 percent and has been steadily increasing.
- Between 1990 and 2006-2010, the median monthly rent rose from 78 percent to 83 percent of the city’s median rent.
- The overall population in Chinatown decreased by 7% from 1990 to 2010, mainly because of an exodus of families. Between 1990 and 2010, the share of family households decreased from 82% to 73%, while the share of non-family households rose from 14% to 24%.
- Luxury buildings are concentrated in the area between Houston and Delancey Streets, as well as portions creeping into Soho near Broome and Ludlow Streets.
- The main commercial use in the neighborhood is food, with Chinese restaurants situated mainly in Chinatown’s historic core, while “other” restaurants are mostly between the Houston and Delancey areas and in Little Italy, while some have also popped up along the edges of historic Chinatown.
The study concludes by saying that “the owner-occupied housing in Chinatown is clearly geared toward higher-income households, whereas rental units have remained somewhat more affordable. Keeping rents affordable will help determine whether the population will shift dramatically in the next ten years.”