Downtown Flushing is home to many Chinese and Korean businesses
Though many know Lower Manhattan’s Chinatown for its dense Chinese population, Flushing, Queens has a nearly equal Chinese presence. About 70% of its population is Asian, making it a thriving ethnic micro neighborhood. In fact, according to a Daily News article citing the 2010 census, Flushing’s own Chinese population has overtaken that of Lower Manhattan’s Chinatown.
A map of Flushing, home to one of the largest East Asian populations in New York City. Map via City Data
It’s hard to believe now, but Flushing was once dominated by European immigrants, particularly white and blue-collar workers from Italy, Ireland and Poland. In the 1970s, immigrants from Taiwan formed a community in the predominantly white area, which would become the basis of what is now Flushing’s Chinatown and became known as “Little Taiwan.” There was also a significant South Korean population that moved into the area at the time.
These immigrants were the first wave to speak Mandarin rather than Cantonese in New York City, and they opted for Flushing, where there were better housing conditions, rather than Lower Manhattan. Over the following decades, people from other provinces of China started settling here. Hence, today there are several Chinese dialects spoken in Flushing.
The heart of Flushing’s Asian community lies in Downtown Flushing, where the bustling streets and crowded markets are reflective of those in Asia. While the Chinese presence is the most apparent, Flushing also has a large Korean community centered around Union Street and a smaller Vietnamese one. In fact, the Queens Library in Flushing has a huge Korean section and there’s even a Korean radio station along 39th avenue. There are also Korean banks, like Nara Bank, accompanying Chinese ones in the area.
A sampling of the variety of Asian businesses along Main Street
One of the biggest Chinese-language newspapers outside of China, The World Journal, has Flushing offices, and there are other Chinese-language publications dispersed in Flushing.
A very popular destination in downtown Flushing is the New World Mall on the corner of Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue, which is the largest indoor Asian mall on the East Coast. According to its website, there are 108 retail shops and a huge Asian supermarket on the first and second floors. The third floor has one of the biggest Chinese dim sum restaurants and banquet halls in the Tri-State area. Its food court has a plethora of options for Asian cuisine, from shaved ice with varieties of toppings, bubble tea, soups and noodles. There is also a karaoke lounge. For a less formal, but no less delicious food option, don’t miss the underground Golden Mall where Xi-An Famous Foods got its start.
The extensive New World Mall in Downtown Flushing. Image via New World Mall
The New World Mall is home to many Asian businesses. Image via New World Mall
One of the best places to shop around Downtown Flushing is along Main Street. There’s Candy Shop USA, which sells sweets like wasabi pistachios and Hello Kitty wrapped candy. The Xinhua Bookstore sells books in Chinese, and the New Bodai Vegetarian Restaurant offers not just delicious Asian cuisine, but a variety of vegan meats, from chicken to jellyfish.
The Nan Xiang Dumpling House in Flushing
Along 39th avenue, you can check out Fay Da, a Chinese bakery with traditional Chinese desserts and breads, and Joe’s Shanghai on 37th avenue offers its renowned soup dumplings. Along Roosevelt Avenue, have a refreshing tea with tapioca pearls at Ten Ren, which is a chain from Taiwan with locations worldwide.
Joe’s Shanghai in Downtown Flushing. Image via ItinerantFoodies
Flushing also hosts Lunar New Year celebrations; last February it held its 19th annual Lunar New Year parade.
The Lunar New Year parade in Flushing
If you’re in the mood to be emerged in East Asian culture, the bustling cultural hub of Downtown Flushing is just a quick ride on the 7 train for you.
Next, check out 18 Ethnic Micro Neighborhoods in the 5 Boroughs of NYC, Untapped Cities Guide to the Top 10 Spots for Small Bites in Flushing, and New York City’s Ethnic Markets: Where to Get Asian Groceries.
Get in touch with the author @sgeier97