InstaBlog: Avenue U's Chinatown

Author's note: Warning—this is a blog-style post based on a social media post. Beware typos and poorly elucidated thoughts. For more polish, perhaps try an article!

Continuing down Avenue U further into the northern reaches of Sheepshead Bay, as you approach the Brighton Line Q station, you run into one of New York City's newest (and Brooklyn's second) Chinatown. As often happens in tightly packed urban communities, the fade-in of Asian groceries, convenience stores, and the like is incredibly quick; one moment you are in outer Brooklyn, the next, you could mistake for Canal Street in Manhattan. That is an appropriate comparison: like New York's original Chinatown, this one is primarily made up of Cantonese speakers and others from the South of China. Some have hypothesized that the reason this neighborhood has sprung up here—instead of equally affordable areas—is that it is a one seat ride on the Q to Canal Street.

Either way, I don't want to give the impression that this neighborhood is homogeneous—far from it! Like many ethnic neighborhoods, similar groups including, Mandarin and Fuzhou speakers and a strong Vietnamese community, cluster nearby. At the same time, the Russian influence is still strong, as is the compliment of the standard New York businesses. It is easy to find a banh mi shop next to a bodega next to a Russian restaurant.

What I love about this Chinatown is that, while it has similar shops to New York's other Chinese (& other Asian) enclaves, it doesn’t have the crushing crowds. Density is an important piece of urbanism to be sure, but it's often forgotten that not every urban space need be as crowded as Times Square or Flushing. A healthy density is all you need, which this community has in spades.

As with the rest of Avenue U, I also loved the mix of architectural styles and ages. Street-wise, the building wall is strong, and the Citibenches are a very appreciated asset. Indeed, they seem to form strong nucleation points for community: I saw many people sitting on them engaged in conversation—a wonderful sight!

Finally, I love little, random pieces of urban infrastructure, and here is no different. Avenue U's sidewalk rises above the street as it passes under the Brighton Line, and to make up the difference, the entire sidewalk is lined with (quite old-looking) steps. I don't when or why they were built, but they are a fascinating, intriguing, and useful piece of public infrastructure!

Based on an Instagram post.
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