Chinese Dialects
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2008.040.014 Oral History Interview with Jan Lee June 18, 2008

MOCA sits down with Jan Lee to discuss his familys longstanding presence in Chinatown and some of the changes that he has witnessed over the decades as the owner of 21 Mott Street. Jan shares the story of how his family first became rooted in Chinatown when his grandfather arrived there at the end of the 19th century. He explains the changes that occurred in Chinatown during the huge wave of Chinese immigration in the 1970s, especially regarding the rise of violence and gangs in the area. Jan also shares the story of how his sister fought this trend through the Chinatown Community Young Lions program and shares anecdotes about his participation in the program. The conversation also delves into Jan’s thoughts on gentrification, both current and past. He offers his thoughts on the importance of Chinatown’s community stakeholders, the internal divisions in Chinatown, some of the dangers posed by external investment, the role that NYC is currently playing, and the role that he believes the city should play to encourage responsible development.