It’s been a hectic week and I’ve been traveling, so I didn’t get to post any updates on Tuesday’s elections. Asian Americans are making strides and gaining visibility in politics, which makes me very happy. You can keep up with Asian American politics at one of the best sources for information, APAs for Progress.
In particular, New York City has a new Asian American Comptroller, John Liu. But the race I thought was really important symbolically was Margaret Chin’s run for New York City Council, representing among other parts of southern Manhattan, Chinatown… amazingly, the first time that a Chinese American would serve in that position.
Well, she won, which is great news. Her victory speech is at top.
I love New York City’s Chinatown. I spent many afternoons wandering its streets when I was an art school student in the 1970s in Brooklyn, and I spent nights wandering its streets when I worked for six months in Jersey City on the other side of Manhattan several years ago. There’s no feeling like it — crowded streets teeming with people, shops overflowing onto the sidewalks, amazing arrays of food and enticements everywhere, the sound of Cantonese and now, more often Mandarin, echoing everywhere. The streets are a tangle; they start out like a grid but then alleyways curve off and what looks like nooks hide more restaurants to try.
San Francisco’s Chinatown is more of a straight line, and though it’s also great, it doesn’t hold the same sense of discovery that New York’s does. Chicago’s is good. LA’s is nice. Boston’s is cool too. DC’s is kinda pitiful.
But New York — THAT’s Chinatown! Carved out as if it were its own country with Canal Street serving as the hard boundary between it and Little Italy just to the north, Chinatown rises above New York’s energy with a spirit that’s its own, and unique.
So imagine my surprise when I found out recently that that bustling district of Manhattan, along with the Wall Street area south of Chinatown, has never had a Chinese American representing its citizens and businesses in New York’s City Council.