Sunset Park

Welcome to Sunset Park! This place has gone through so many ethnic changes throughout the years, but has ultimately become a home to a large Mexican and Chinese community. We’re here to talk about the Chinese immigrant part of this neighborhood, so let’s go! Follow us on our audio tour. Hopefully nothing goes wrong.

Sunset Park

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Sunset Park Branch Library: 40.645934, -74.013499
Green-Wood Cemetery: 40.652179, -73.990425
Sunset Park: 40.648085, -74.003563
The Dumpling Place: 40.642017, -74.002384
Maimonides Medical Center: 40.639372, -73.998510
Confraternity of the Precious Blood: 40.637592, -74.002686
Second Evangelical Free Church: 40.639722, -74.004722
Brooklyn Chinese American Association: 40.638469, -74.005821
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Sunset Park Branch Library

Our first stop, two blocks north of the 53rd Street train station, is the library. The Sunset Park Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library was founded in 1905 and funded by Andrew Carnegie. At the time, it was called the South Branch and was a brick building. As you can no doubt see, this library is not made of brick. The Sunset Park Branch was actually deemed obsolete in 1970, and the building was torn down. However, it was rebuilt on the same lot in 1998 by Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden. The library's amenities feature Wi-Fi, handicap accessibility, a community meeting room, and the glass facade you see today.
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Green-Wood Cemetery

Head north on 4th to 25th Street, and turn right onto 5th Avenue to reach the main entrance of our next location: the cemetery. Green-Wood Cemetery is one of the largest and most well known cemeteries in the United States. It was founded in 1838 and is 478 acres. The cemetery is home to 56,000 permanent residents. It has officially run out of grave spots. Some of it’s earliest marked stones date back to the early 1800s. Some of it’s famous residents include Leonard Bernstein, Boss Tweed, John-Michael Baptiste, as well as many civil war generals and baseball players. The cemetery has many amenities, including trolley rides on Wednesdays, a crematorium, a chapel, and occasional walking tours. It has a pond and a new garden for people’s ashes. It was also a Revolutionary War site; the battle of Long Island was fought on it’s grounds. It was declared a national historic landmark in 2006. The cemetery also sells urns, which are used in Chinese burial practices. The new urn garden will become the permanent resting place for members of the Sunset Park community.
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Sunset Park

Now let's exit the cemetery and head south on 5th Avenue to 41st Street and the Park. Sunset Park is both a park and a recreational community center. This creation of this park is what gave the Sunset Park area its name. The park has been a community institution since 1895. It has a pool, a ping pong table, and beautiful views of the Manhattan skyline. It offers the community learn-to-swim classes for all ages, adult lap times, free after school swimming instruction, as is the home training pool for Brooklyn’s swim team. The recreation center in Sunset Park has a computer recreation center, a library, a dance room, and a free indoor gym.
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Kai Feng Fu Dumpling House

This gem is a popular place to grab a bite in the community because of it's inexpensive yet delicious food and it's convenient location. Exit the park on the 7th Avenue side and head south to 48th Street, then turn east toward 8th Avenue. Be careful, because you might just past our next location between 8th and 9th Avenues, the Kai Feng Fu Dumpling House. If you need a quick, inexpensive bite to eat, this dumpling place is the place for you. This little joint is a hidden gem. This sketchy looking, back alley food place has an A rating. You enter the joint through a sketchy looking entrance and you order at the little desk. Then, if you choose to sit down and eat, you exit to outside and walk a few steps to the right to a graffiti covered and even more sketchy looking door that leads to the seating area, where your piping hot dumplings will be waiting for you. The dumplings are four for a dollar, and you really do get the best for your buck (if you are willing to get past the sketchy exterior).
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Maimonides Medical Center

Continue on 48th toward 10th Avenue and our next location, the hospital. Maimonides Medical Center opened in 1911 by a group of women whose main concern was to cater to the poor and needy residents of their neighborhood. In 1916 they expanded their services to include medicine, which led to a need to expand their location. This issue wasn’t addressed until 1919 when they moved themselves into the land on 10th avenue and 48th to 49th street. Despite the growth of the hospital, they still tended to everyone despite race and religion. Expansion continued during 1937 after the hospital was labeled the largest Jewish Hospital. Eventually the growing hospital merged with Beth Moses Hospital on May 20 1947, and finally named themselves Maimonides Medical Center. Even to this day Maimonides Medical Center is known for its diversity in patients, tending to anyone despite their race or religion. In fact, the hospital advertises the fact that their staff represents over 70 different languages including Chinese, which is very important for this neighborhood. They also have a telephone interpreter service for about 150 languages.
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Confraternity of the Precious Blood

Let's head south to 53rd Street down Fort Hamilton Parkway. Don't worry about walking over, as 10th Street will end pretty soon; at that point, just head left and continue south toward our next stop, the Confraternity of the Precious Blood. This is a cloistered convent for the Sisters Adorers of the Precious Blood, which was founded in 1861 in Quebec, Canada. Convents like these are found all over Canada and the northern United States. This particular monastery was built in 1890, and became the Confraternity of Precious Blood in 1925 under the leadership of the Right Reverend Monsignor Joseph Stedman. The nuns are available for prayer in the morning and afternoon.
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Second Evangelical Free Church

Head up to 52nd Street and west to 8th Avenue and our next location, which also happens to be a house of religion.The Second Evangelical Free Church was founded in 1922 by the Norwegian immigrants in Sunset Park. Since then the neighborhood has changed, and so has the church. The church now offers masses in both Chinese and English. The Church is open for prayer six days a week. They have a youth group that meets once a week on Fridays for grades six through twelve. They also have a Sunday School Religious Education program for grades five through twelve in both English and Chinese, as well as a bible study group. They have events for the community such as Women’s Game Night and Leadership Community Meetings.
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Brooklyn Chinese American Association

Head down 8th to 54th Street and our last destination on this tour. The Brooklyn Chinese-American Association was established in 1987 as a community-based not-for-profit social service agency. They have branches for Sunset park, Borough Park, and Bay Ridge. Their services range from providing after school services for children, which include a head start program and a universal pre-kindergarten program, to adult education services. The organization tries to cater to low income families by providing these free services to families with special needs. The Childhood services strive to promote early literacy in children, while also going over social communication skills. The adult programs offer a variety of classes mainly for immigrants residing around their branches. Some of these classes include basic education in english and literacy. They also provide workshops for immigrants in resume writing, interviews, and skills training in order for these people to have a better chance of employment. These programs are essential for the immigrants of Sunset Park to ease their way into American society.

For more information see these references:

Abraham, Terry and Wegars, Priscilla. “Urns, Bones and Burners: Overseas Chinese Cemeteries.” Australian Historical Archaeology. 21 (2003): 58 to 69. Print.

This article explores the funeral and burial practices in Chinese cemeteries. One of the practices discussed is the placement of the bones of the dead into an urn and then moved to a location with good Feng Shui. Green-Wood Cemetery, with an entrance located in Sunset Park, just opened a new urn garden. This article helps to make the connection of the Chinese population in Sunset Park and the creation of this new urn garden.

Bao, Xiolan. “Sweatshops in Sunset Park: A Variation of the Late 20th Century Chinese Garment Shops in New York City.” International Labor and Working Class History, 61 (2002). 69-90. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.

This article is an in-depth analysis of sweatshops in New York City that exploited the labor of Chinese immigrants; while the idea of a sweatshop might evoke thoughts of the late 1800s and the industrial revolution, sweatshop labor has occurred as recently as the 1980s and 1990s in New York City. As Sunset Park amassed more Chinese immigrants, the number of sweatshops in the area grew. This article examines multiple shops in Sunset Park, provides interviews with laborers, and discusses the cutthroat nature of the garment industry.

Brooklyn Chinese-American Association. “A Bluer Sky: A History of the Brooklyn Chinese-American Association.” Brooklyn Chinese-American Association, 2009. Web.

This is the “about us” page of the Brooklyn Chinese-American Association. Not only does it provide the history of the association itself, it also talks about the Chinese inhabitants of Sunset Park. It talks about the depletion of the scandinavian population that lived in Sunset Park before the Chinese residents. It shows the convenience of Sunset Park’s location, and also the promise that 8th avenue had for the incoming Chinese population. It talks about the social and cultural implications of life in that area of Brooklyn. At the end of the page, they link all of their services and programs for the community for both young and old members of the neighborhood. This “about us” page does a great job in providing information of the history and culture of the Chinese immigrants in Sunset Park along with information about the organizations practices.

Green-Wood Cemetery. “Cremation.” Green-Wood, 2013. Web.

Green-Wood Cemetery is one of the first rural cemeteries in the United States and one of the most popular (as well as a National Landmark). One of the many entrances to the cemetery is located in Sunset Park. This page of the Green-Wood Cemetery website explains all of the cremation possibilities offered at Green-Wood. One of these possibilities is the urn and the urn garden, which was recently built. The use of urns is one of the key factors in Chinese burials. Therefore the creation of this garden and the fact that urns are sold by the cemetery (as also advertised on this page) can be traced to the Chinese population in Sunset Park.

Hayes, Matthew. “Smuggled Labor: From Fujian Province to Sunset Park.” New Labor Forum. No 11 (Fall – Winter, 2002): pp. 48-53. Web.

This short story paints the picture of a Chinese immigrant’s  journey to America and his life in New York. It describes the conditions that he, “Jon,” had to endure on his way to America as a smuggled laborer. Having a choice of whether or not to carry heroin and being taken straight to the United States or being dropped off outside of US borders without heroin, he chose not take a bag of heroin and made his way to New York smuggled in a bus through the Mexican-US border. Although this story isn’t mainly set in Sunset Park, it discusses some things that many Chinese immigrants have experienced in order to come to America. It also describes working life of a Chinese immigrant, mentioning the many jobs “Jon” had only to have a major portion of their money go to the smugglers he owed.

Kwok, Jean. Girl in Translation. New York: Riverhead, 2010. Print.

Girl in Translation is a novel inspired by the events of the author’s own immigration to America. The protagonist, a young Chinese girl, moves to Brooklyn in 1997 and is faced with crushing poverty and cultural impediments on all sides. Each day, after struggling in school due to the language barrier, she is forced to work in a sweatshop with her mother just to make ends meet. She resolves to learn English and succeed in school so that she can make a better place for herself and her mother in America. Although the book is a work of fiction, it gives a glimpse of struggles that Chinese immigrants in New York City have, and the inhuman exploitation of immigrant labour in the garment industry in Chinese districts across the five boroughs.

Li, Wei. “Beyond Chinatown, beyond enclave: Reconceptualizing contemporary Chinese settlements in the United States.” GeoJournal. 64. No. 1 (2005): 31 to 40. Print.

This article discusses the changes the trends of Chinese Immigrants to the United States. It examines the events in the United States such as the Chinese Exclusion Acts, how these restriction were lifted, and the prejudice that existed towards the Chinese immigrants and how all of this affected the enclaves, caused gender imbalances, and changed the actual appeal to move to the U.S. It also discusses the changes in the types of enclaves, from suburban, to the ghettos, to Metropolitan areas. This article gives a good general overview of these push and pull factors of the many Chinese enclaves on the United States, and though Sunset Park is only mentioned briefly, this article’s explanation for the trends in these enclaves applies.

Maimonides Medical Center, “Timeline: The past 100 years.” 100 Years and Growing 1911-2011. Maimonides Medical Center. Web.

This page on the Maimonides Medical Center website provides a 100 year timeline with major events of the hospitals history. It encompasses the hospitals history from its origins in New Utrecht to its centennial anniversary. The timeline talks about the hospitals Maimonides Medical Center has merged with while still keeping its services to the poor and needy despite religious views and ethnic differences. It also talks about the medical advancements the hospital has achieved, along with the establishment’s growth. Just click on a date and a small history will be provided to discuss specific histories of that year. A history of outside events are also provided, starting with the sinking of the Titanic, to put in perspective the history of the hospital. This a great source to view the hospitals general history.

Margulis, Harry L. “Asian Villages: Downtown Sanctuaries, Immigrant Asian Reception Areas, and Festival Marketplaces.” Journal of Architectural Education, 45.3 (1992). 150-160. Web. 31 Mar. 2014.

This article examines the roles city planning and non-profits play in mapping out East Asian neighborhoods. City zoning accounts for low-income housing, low population density, diversification of jobs, and wide areas for community meeting places and public festivals. It examines the delicate balance between city standards and comfort and sanctuary for non-English speaking residents, and how city planning develops neighborhoods within its borders that meet both of the requirements. Sunset Park was developed in a fashion similar to the one outlined in the article: the amalgamation of Chinese culture with New York City neighborhood standards created a neighborhood with a distinct infusion of Eastern culture and Western infrastructure.