Where LES Boutiques Meet Chinatown

I didn’t want to be “That Guy“, the one that takes pictures of Chinese folks out and about. But I couldn’t pass this up, and I’m 1/8 Chinese, so its ok, right? It was on Orchard St. near Broome St., an area the City has dubbed “Lower East Side Shopping District”. An area that easily shows the signs of Bloomberg condoned gwei-lo gentrifying Chinatown and the spreading of hip, urban boutiques. This photo was taken at Still Life, a custom hat shop that can custom tailor you a rice straw (how ironic) bike racer hat to fit your specific head shape for a paupers’ price of $250 a pop. And flanking either side of this boutique were entrances to an apartment/condo complex, brand new, that housed old Chinese folks. The housing development that oozed of a developer’s “low income housing requirement” made me wonder if these Chinese folks wanted to live like this?

I know it’s not their choice, but if the point of living in an ethnic enclave is to have your local needs (food, entertainment, shopping) met by local services owned by people with similar ethnic backgrounds, once you take away the Chinese gorcery stores and community centers and replace them with sneaker boutiques, brunch cafes, and high end fashion stores, what’s the point of living there? Finding housing for these folks just ain’t enough if you’re chipping away at the existing community. You’re just fulfilling government quotas, kicking out local Chinese and bringing back token housing units reserved for the original inhabitants while leading to siuations like this old man chilling on a boutique’s outdoor bench, smiling at me cause I was the only Asian cat there and asking me what time it was. I said 3:45 and he sat there, apparently waiting for 4:00 to roll by so he could meet someone for a $14 cocktail and Brie sandwiches across the street, or to shop for a limited edition Alife/Lacoste collaboration polo shirt down the street ($175 at a local Alife store near you, gwei-lo).


One thought on “Where LES Boutiques Meet Chinatown

  1. I feel you on this. There’s part of me that wonders if Flushing as the new Chinatown was a strategic decision – put that sucker at the far, far, far end of the 7 line, and no white person will ever want to gentrify it. If you’re already white and there, you’re probably generations deep. If you’re Asian and you’re there, you’re purposefully living in an ethnic enclave.


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