Oral History Archive - Projects
8th Avenue - Sunset Park Oral History Collection

Between 1993 and 1994 the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) collaborated with the Brooklyn Historical Society to conduct 29 interviews in English, Cantonese, and Mandarin with residents of Brooklyn's Sunset Park. The interviews focused on what was then a new presence of Chinese and Asian immigrants concentrated along Eighth Avenue in Brooklyn's newly formed Chinatown.



Number of interviews: 26


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1994.007.012 Oral History Interview with Tony Giordano 1993/06/29

By outlining the experiences of the two prior generations, Tony Giordano explains in the interview how his family of Italian heritage came to be in Brooklyn. He focuses on his father occupations; ultimately one as a bus driver. Giordano describes his upbringing in terms of his family apartment housing, Brooklyn neighborhoods, vacations on Long Island, education from first grade through college, and his Roman Catholic religious experience. The interview is in depth on his experience of losing faith in organized religion and later discovering a devotion to God. Contributing to this struggle with religion, Giordano talks about a failed first marriage, custody challenges over his son, a rekindled relationship, and a happy, interfaith marriage and family. He focuses on the ethnic heritage and late twentieth century makeup of the Sunset Park community and his role as a civic leader. The influx of large numbers of Chinese into Sunset Park in the late 1980s has created what Giordano calls the "Third Chinatown." Interview conducted by Gregory Ruf.



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1994.007.013 Oral History Interview with Yee Hoen 1993/08/15

In this interview, Yee "Curie" Hoen describes her life as a single, female Chinese immigrant living alone in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. Leung recounts the process of getting a job as a disk jockey at a Chinese radio station and her promotion to supervisor of the Programming Department. She discusses neighborhood ethnic relations and crime (including being mugged). Hoen tells of her leisure activities; singing karaoke and opera, attending Sunset Park traditional Chinese festivals, and watching soap operas. Interview conducted by Ka-Kam Chui.



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1994.007.015 Oral History Interview with Mak Shui Ka 1993/11/13

In this interview, Mak Shui Ka discusses her life history in Communist China; upbringing, schools, her family, and persecution, as well as her successes as a conscripted cadet. Mrs. Ka describes her life in America, which brought her first experiences with poverty and grave anti-Chinese discrimination. She describes an extensive anti-Chinese pogrom waged by the Italian members of the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. In response, Ka helped organize a community protest event and delivered a speech that vowed constant vigilance. She details extensively another incident of discrimination in which police stormed an apartment in the Chinatown neighborhood of Manhattan, then beat the family inside; including a pregnant woman. Ka was called as a community first responder; taking photographs and witness testimony, and helped prosecute the police members. In relation to Sunset Park, Ka also references her real estate transactions, the rent prices and taxes, and neighborhood crime. Interview in Cantonese conducted by Ka-Kam Chui.



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1994.007.016 Oral History Interview with Harrison Kang 1993/04/15

This brief interview was conducted at the Kang family dry cleaning shop, located at 5214 Eighth Avenue in Brooklyn. In the interview, Harrison Kang mentions his family emigration from South Korea to New York City. He describes different aspects of the evolution of the Brooklyn neighborhood of Sunset Park; from relative quietude to a bustling area of immigrants and small business. Kang discusses the neighborhood change from a mix of Norwegian and Hispanic residents to a primarily Chinese population. By the time of the 1993 interview, Sunset Park was considered Brooklyn Chinatown. Kang provides an overview of the different ethnic groups endemic to different area streets. Interview conducted by Mary Lui.



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1994.007.017 Oral History Interview with Fai Ling Lee 1993/11/17

In this interview, Fai Ling "Alice" Lee discusses the development of the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn; from a sleepy, dilapidated, majority-Norwegian area in the 1970s to a thriving Chinese diaspora in the 1980s and 1990s. She describes the economic and working conditions faced by her father, who worked in a Times Square Chinese restaurant, and her mother, a seamstress in the Chinatown neighborhood of Manhattan. The interview focuses on real estate investing in Sunset Park; home prices, mortgages, rental income, and risks. Lee also mentions her position as a bilingual educator at P.S. 314 in Sunset Park. Interview in Cantonese conducted by Ka-Kam Chui.



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1994.007.018 Oral History Interview with Johnny Lee 1993/09/02

In this interview, using a pseudonym, "Johnny Lee" recounts his life history. He recollects being raised in Hong Kong by his mother while his father worked in America. He remembers his time at Chinatown Seward Park High School bilingual program, classmates who dropped out to join Chinese gangs, after-school work as a button-sewer in garment factories, college work as a dishwasher at a Chinese restaurant, and the decision to leave City College to pursue full-time work at an Off-Track Betting location. Lee discusses the boom in the Chinatown neighborhood of Manhattan garment factories, the increase in competition, and resultant deflation in real wages and living standards. He talks about working-class income, real estate prices, his family decision to purchase a home, and the rejuvenation of the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn and its Eighth Avenue small businesses. Interview in Cantonese conducted by Ka-Kam Chui.



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1994.007.019 Oral History Interview with Yee Ming Leung 1993/09/08

In this interview, Yee Ming Leung describes his teenage assimilation to American culture; a childhood of "Chinese" activities such as catching crabs on Coney Island or stealing nuts from neighbors trees, as well as playing baseball and watching football or movies with his new American friends. Leung recalls his life as a businessman and, later, a restaurateur. He discusses his campaign and motivations for running for a seat on the School Board, Chinese attitudes towards voting, and his activities as an activist and member of Community Board 4. Interview in Cantonese conducted by Ka-Kam Chui.



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1994.007.020 Oral History Interview with Miu Fei Li 1993/12/19

In this interview, Miu Fei Li discusses life since her 1981 immigration to New York City. She tells of the decision to immigrate to America as a twenty-two year-old newlywed; initial impressions of Manhattan; and attempts to learn English. She describes life and working conditions experienced as a garment factory seamstress and the benefits of being a union member. She talks about her work schedule; which played roles in fostering her husband gambling addiction and their subsequent divorce. Li speaks of her second marriage. She also evaluates real estate conditions in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn circa 1993. Interview in Cantonese conducted by Ka-Kam Chui.



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1994.007.021 Oral History Interview with Ning-Yuan Li and Anonymous 1993/07/02

In this interview, J.L. (Anonymous) and Ning-Yuan Li provide viewpoints on their different lives that led them to America. Li, fine art painter, describes his early education and sensibilities as an artist and recalls the Chinese Cultural Revolution impact on fine art in China. J.L., from Taiwan, relates his life story; the era of the "Anti-Japan War," his career as a soldier, and time spent in Paraguay running a small wrist-watch business. Joined by J.T. (Anonymous, also a narrator of her own oral history), J.L. and Li discuss their shared experience as residents of Brooklyn Chinatown; working conditions for Chinese immigrants, language barriers, armed robberies, and the American systems of education and juvenile corrections. Interview in Mandarin conducted by Gregory Ruf.



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1994.007.022 Oral History Interview with Paul Mak 1993/03/26

In this interview, Paul Mak discusses his personal assimilation into mainstream American culture. He details his career as a civil servant serving the Chinese community of Eighth Avenue in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Sunset Park; helping educate new immigrants assimilate by teaching them American customs, smoothing out relationships with neighboring ethnic groups (particularly the Latino community), and working to develop Brooklyn Chinatown by facilitating the migration of garment factories from Manhattan to Brooklyn. He also describes his time as a community board member. Interview conducted by Mary Lui.



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