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.
Until now, that is. Margaret Chin, a 56-year-old longtime community activist who was born in Hong Kong, is the front-runner to win that pioneering position this Tuesday. (Thanks to APA for Progress for turning me on to the CNN story about Chin.) Continue reading