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2008.040.002 Oral History Interview with Jenny Ye February 2, 2008

Jenny Ye was born in Manhattan in 1991, and has been a resident of Chinatown her whole life. She actively volunteers and coordinates for community-oriented organizations such as Chinatown Youth Initiatives, Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence (CAAAV), Chinatown Literacy Project, and Asian Pacific American Youth Alliance (APAYA). Ye first became aware of gentrification at a Chinatown Tenant Union meeting. She visualizes Chinatown as having aged low-rise buildings, fire escapes, no elevators, and inhabited by mostly immigrant families. When asked to define gentrification, she envisions tall buildings, the process of uprooting low-income communities and shifting them elsewhere to give privilege to more affluent residents who are able to afford the renovated real estate. Ye argues that gentrification does not solve issues with safety, crime, sanitation, and poverty because it merely relocates it to another neighborhood. However, she also empathizes with landlords because her parents, who have investments in real estate, rely on gentrification and the ability to raise rent in order to sustain the family’s quality of life. Finally, Ye talks about the changes in Chinatown, claiming that it is now shrinking, and explains that the changes occurred without consideration for the neighborhood’s businesses and residents; in other words, she fears that gentrification will transform Chinatown into “South SoHo”.

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2008.040.009 Oral History Interview with Daniel Carter and Marilyn Sontag January 2, 2008

Husband and wife Daniel Carter and Marilyn Sontag moved together to Chinatown in 1970, where they continue to live and work today—Carter as a musician and writer and Sontag as an abstract artist and part-time gallery coordinator. In their interview, they describe their meeting in Italy and their decision to subsequently relocate to New York City. The couple illustrates Chinatowns community of artists present during the 70s and 80s, and describes the ways in which that atmosphere has changed. Additionally, they explain how they have seen an evolution in SoHo and Little Italy, evident in the increased development and prevalent “boutique culture.” Along these same lines, Carter and Sontag also see a gradual but seemingly constant change in population: as younger, wealthier residents move in, older residents—particularly Asian and Italian residents—are pushed out by higher rent prices. Both would like to see more affordable housing in Chinatown, Little Italy, and SoHo, and Carter expresses a personal struggle with what he perceives as disregard or disrespect for customs and culture in New York, or what he refers to as “brutal displacement.”

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2008.040.025 Oral History Interview with Connie Ling February 12, 2008

Connie Ling, born in the Philippines and later a resident of Hong Kong during the 1960s, summarizes her experiences emigrating with her husband from Hong Kong to New York in 1967. Ling initially lived and worked in Chinatown, where she found employment as a machine operator in a garment factory. During her ten years working for the garment industry, Ling recalls an influx of Chinese immigrants and substantial growth in industrial businesses. After serving as a factory chairwoman for several years, she was eventually recruited as a union representative for UNITE in 1982, speaking for workers rights and mediating conflicts between workers and employers. At the time of her interview, Ling estimated that there were only approximately 100 union garment factories left. She attributes this decrease to the aftermath of September 11th, which caused commercial rent to double and garment industries to outsource labor to Sri Lanka, Mexico, and China. Ling also talks about the gentrification in Chinatown, stating that new condominiums are replacing old shops and factories while rent inflation is forcing old residents to move out of Chinatown. She goes on to note the growth among the Fukienese and Puerto Rican immigrant populations in the Lower East Side and expresses discontent with the growing number of Caucasian residents in Chinatown. Ling concludes by reflecting on how Chinatown’s garment industry is not likely to return due to significant changes in manufacturing and rent.