Why Chinatown is Gentrifying Later than Other Communities in Downtown Manhattan: A Planning History

Urban Planning Thesis

Nannan Xu

Robert Beauregard, advisor

Manhattan’s Chinatown is the oldest and formerly the largest Chinese community in the East Coast. Since the repeal of Chinese Exclusion Acts in 1940s, Manhattan’s Chinatown experienced fast expansion, tremendous population influx, increase of redevelopment, as well as a changing land use and population composition. As a community located next door to a world class financial district, Chinatown has been under the pressure of gentrification for decades, forcing tenants to move to outer-borough Asian communities. Why, however, is Chinatown gentrifying later than other communities in downtown Manhattan? To answer this question, this planning history study examined the four cases: Chinatown Street Revitalization Study of 1976, Special Manhattan Bridge District of 1982, East Village/Lower East Side Rezoning of 2008 and Establishment of Chinatown Business Improvement District of 2011. Based on the discoveries, several recommendations were provided for Chinatown community groups, including persisting to lobby for protective rezoning, utilizing existing “rules of play”, and promoting local entrepreneurship for local small businesses.