Boston Chinatown struggles against gentrification

Global Business

Boston Chinatown struggles against gentrification

Chinatowns in America emerged in the late 1800s as a place where the mass influx of Chinese immigrants could find people who spoke the same language, cooked familiar foods and helped them acclimate to their new world. Many original Chinatowns exist today and still play a vital role for new arrivals, but many are under threat from gentrification.

CCTV America’s Karina Huber visited a Chinatown in Boston that is fighting for its survival.

Boston Chinatown struggles against gentrification

Boston Chinatown struggles against gentrification

Chinatowns in America emerged in the late 1800s as a place where the mass influx of Chinese immigrants could find people who spoke the same language, cooked familiar foods and helped them acclimate to their new world. Many original Chinatowns exist today and still play a vital role for new arrivals, but many are under threat from gentrification. CCTV America's Karina Huber visited a Chinatown in Boston that is fighting for its survival.

Andrew Leong, who moved to the United States from Hong Kong in 1969, spends his Saturday giving a tour of the neighborhood he grew up in. He’s been giving tours of the area for about 30 years.

“It’s not only historical but actually a living community. It provides a fundamental basic service to recent immigrants to allow them to assimilate and transition into the betterment of our society,” Leong said.

Leong considers himself an activist fighting for Chinatown’s survival.

The fight to preserve Boston’s Chinatown is not new. After the neighborhood lost half of its land to two highways and a hospital in the 1990s, residents began to push back.

The community is now pushing back because of the threat of gentrification. Boston’s Chinatown, which is home to roughly 12,000 people, is experiencing a luxury-housing boom that is pushing up rents.

One recent condo, the Kensington, charges more than $4,000 a month for a one-bedroom apartment.

Many of the existing immigrant inhabitants face eviction to make way for new constructions, or higher paying tenants.

Activist Karen Chen, co-director of the Chinese Progressive Association, is fighting to keep housing affordable and helped form a new Chinatown Land Trust that she hopes will have a say in what gets built in the area.

“The community built Chinatown,” Chen said. “The community is here to say ‘No. Hell no, we won’t go.’” 

The Chinese Historical Society of New England is trying to get buildings designated as historic to save them from the wrecking ball. The city of Boston claims it is committed to preserving Chinatown.

But Leong says the city needs to stop offering developers tax breaks and zoning allowances. If they don’t, he fears the area will lose its character.


Marie Wong on Gentrification

For more on the current state of areas like Chinatown, Little Italy and other immigrant hubs in US cities, CCTV America’s Rachelle Akuffo spoke to Marie Wong, an expert in urban design and planning.