On the Old Bowery: The End of Chinatown

Posted on: February 17th, 2010 at 6:33 am by

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On this day in 1907, the New York Times printed an article that, in hindsight, teems with explicit racism.  Entitled “Chinatown Doomed to Make Way for Bowery Park,” the piece is a snapshot of how many cityfolk perceived Chinatown at the turn of the century.  The crux of the argument – replacing Chinatown with a “Bowery Park” – is presented almost as an afterthought in what was clearly a prejudiced diatribe against the people and the neighborhood.

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Witness turn-of-the-century notions of Lower East Side gentrification…

On the Firecracker Festival [Previously]

The Chinese New Year – the beginning of 2465, Confucian reckoning – had just been celebrated with the roar of exploding crackers, bombs, and fireworks.

On Living Quarters

In the old rookeries and dilapidated tenements of Mott, Doyers, and Pell Streets, they find hiding places where they can sate their thirst for strange vices.

They live huddled together in ill-smelling, unventilated, and unsanitary quarters that are inconceivable to the average American…They pay as much rent in aggregate as the tenant of a Harlem flat.

On the March of Progress (nay, gentrification)

The march of progress requires that this pest spot of the metropolis shall be wiped from the map of New York.

Civilization may advance on every side, Chinatown remains a festering sore on the face of Manhattan.

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On the Area of Chinatown

New York’s Chinatown, which will thus be wiped out, comprises about one and one-half acres. The assessed valuation of the property is $583, 200.

On the Opium Dens

The opium dens and gambling houses that remain are snugly hidden away in attics and cellars.  To get to them, one has to go through a veritable labyrinth of passages and hallways.

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