The neighborhood of Flushing, Queens, originally named Vlissingen, began its life as a Dutch colony on the eastern bank of the Flushing Creek, as a part of New Netherland, in 1645. The neighborhood was unique in that its charter allowed residents freedom of religion, as was standard in Holland. As a result, Flushing is claimed to be the birth of religious freedom in the New World.
Flushing was taken control of by the British after England took control of New Amsterdam, and was incorporated into Queens County in 1683. When Queens County was incorporated into the City of New York in 1898, the town of Flushing was dissolved, and the name of Flushing was taken on by a smaller area, which comprised many of the village of Flushing’s landmarks and monuments.
Flushing was linked with the Long Island Rail Road in 1910 and to the New York City Subway’s IRT Flushing Line in 1928. By linking with these transit services, Flushing was abe to set itself as a center of business and commerce within New York City, and it is currently the fourth largest business district in the New York Metropolitan Area.
Flushing’s history is closely tied to its demographics. The heritage of its citizens has changed dramatically over its 370-year history, shifting from predominantly Dutch, to English, to Italian and Jewish, and more recently to Chinese. Flushing’s Chinatown, which began to form in the 1970s, formed largely as a community of well-educated, Mandarin-speaking, Taiwanese immigrants. These people decided against settling in Manhattan’s Chinatown due to a language barrier (Cantonese was spoken in Manhattan), and a lack of quality housing. This iteration of Flushing’s Chinatown was known as Little Taipei.
Over the past few decades, Little Taipei experienced a large amount of “general” Chinese immigration. As a result of people from all the provinces of China moving into Little Taipei, Flushing’s Chinatown has become a highly-diversified Chinatown, with a vast array of Asian banks and businesses.
Note: It’s worth noting that Asian Americans have the highest rate of poverty in NYC. Though Flushing isn’t the clearest indicator of these rates, a comparison of the neighborhood in the 1980s, when Flushing’s Chinatown was beginning to come into its own, and today, does reveal increased poverty rates. The fact that Asian-Americans have the highest rate of poverty in NYC often goes unnoticed, as a recent article in the Huffington Post, titled “Asian Americans Have Highest Poverty Rate in NYC, But Stereotypes Make the Issue Invisible” discussed. In the piece, Kimberly Yam explains the model minority myth, which uses success stories of certain people within a minority to mask the group’s actual statistics.
Changes in Demographics
Since the 1970’s, the population in Flushing has shifted from being predominantly white to being predominantly Asian. Flushing’s first wave of immigrants came from Taiwan, starting the area’s shift into the Little Chinatown that it is today. Korean and Chinese immigrants also began to settle in the Flushing area, creating a dynamic town, distinct from the Chinatown of Manhattan. This new Flushing Chinatown was vastly different from the Chinatown of the Lower East Side: Cantonese-speaking immigrants had made up the bulk of Chinese immigrants before the 1970’s, but the Chinese immigrants of the Flushing area brought with them a new language – Mandarin Chinese. As these Mandarin Chinese-speaking immigrants flooded the Flushing area, this new “Mandarin Town” had started become its own distinct region of New York City.
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Min, Pyong Gap. Asian Americans: contemporary trends and issues. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Pine Forge Press, 2006. Print.
Swarns, Rachel L. “In a Flourishing Queens, Prosperity Eludes Some Asian Families.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 04 May 2014. Web. 15 May 2017.
Yam, Kimberly. “Asian-Americans Have Highest Poverty Rate In NYC, But Stereotypes Make The Issue Invisible.” The Huffington Post, 08 May 2017. Web. 15 May 2017.