As the coronavirus spread to the United States, New York City's Chinatowns were facing another layer of crisis: xenophobia. Before the city's restaurants were officially mandated to close, countless articles depicted the heartbreaking decline of sales for family-run Chinese restaurants, which were already fighting to survive gentrification-related rent increases that have plagued these neighborhoods, especially Manhattan’s Chinatown area, over the last decade as increasingly wealthier citydwellers flocked further south on the island.
But beyond the severe profit loss, New York’s Chinese restaurant workers, in some cases, feared assaults for racist associations blaming them for the virus spreading across the city, bearing the brunt of the blame as if it was somehow their fault.
Through it all, an Instagram account called Send Chinatown Love has been “providing relief efforts to small, off-the-grid businesses in Chinatown NYC suffering from the impacts of COVID-19,” the team writes in their social media bio.
The Instagram account has been providing that relief in several ways. But since April, according to the account, the team has managed to raise over $12,000 for eight different Chinatown merchants in need of aid. These spots include Wing Hing, 46 Mott, Shunfa Bakery, Grand Tea, Melonpanna, New Win and Nan Bei Foods. Several interviews with the local spots are also featured throughout the account, giving more information about their backstories.
"As it turns out, most Chinatown businesses were rejected for government loans due to application requirements that are inequitable to immigrant-run microbusinesses. That’s why Send Chinatown Love was born. These restaurants are mostly cash-only, lack an online web presence and were already closed, so we built an easy-to-adopt solution to create revenue streams and found creative ways to build a relationship with each and every one of our merchants in order to onboard them to our platform. For Chinatown and its 7,000 businesses that are largely off the grid, it’s vital we bring them online to weather the economic hardships of COVID, but for any future crises that could pose such challenges again," the team writes online.
The work continues.
As more and more businesses reopen, it might be easy to forget that most restaurants in New York City do not have the privilege of hiring fancy, expensive PR agencies to announce their plans and, especially now, the ways in which they are incorporating social-distancing and other health measures into them. Send Chinatown Love’s focus is precisely on these small businesses, who can especially use help getting the word out.
“As Chinatown opens for business, it needs our love now more than ever! With increased operation costs, high rent and decreased foot traffic, the next few weeks are make it or break it for these businesses. We’ve crowdsourced some of our community’s favorite mom & pop shops that could use a little boost! Dine outdoors, order delivery/takeout, tip extra, wear a mask and most importantly, don’t be afraid of Chinatown,” the team writes.
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