As you emerge onto the street, you will immediately be faced with throngs of shoppers and strollers. You may also see a vendor selling glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo leaves and hear her yell “zongzi”!
Walk south on Chrystie St, hugging the park. As you walk, listen out for the sounds of handball being played or upbeat Chinese music to accompany a social dance class. Across the street, you may see a line and hear the sounds of Cantonese BBQ and roasted meats (char siu) being chopped at Wah Fung Fast Food.
Crossing Canal, you will run into an informal fruit and vegetable market hugging the Manhattan Bridge. Local residents are attracted to the variety of fresh produce and low prices. You will hear a variety of languages as customers haggle with vendors, some of whom are not Chinese.
Take a small detour onto Market St. You will see a line of mostly white vans idling on the street. These are the informal shuttle vans linking Brooklyn’s Chinese enclave of Sunset Park to Manhattan’s Chinatown, allowing the enclaves to stay connected. You may hear conductors yelling out the destination as potential customers' approach. Vans serving other Chinese enclaves such as Flushing depart from further west on Division St.
Hidden under the Manhattan Bridge, this supermarket is a mainstay for Chinese groceries. Overhead, the rumble of the train is loud and inescapable. Stroll through the aisles and you may hear customers ordering fresh cuts of meat and fishmongers filleting seafood.
Often referred to as the Chinatown Skatepark, watch and listen to the neighborhood skateboarders landing tricks at the Lower East Side (LES) Coleman Skate Park. New Yorkers live, play, study and work in the shadows of the Manhattan Bridge. How do residents manage the constant, high decibel noise? How does the noise impact their health? The glassy tower of One Manhattan Square to the south will soon be joined by three additional “super tall” luxury apartments. How will the construction impact current residents?
Head north via the Pike and Allen Malls. You will see and hear the neighborhood changing as you approach the edge of Chinatown. At this unassuming store, you will see many food delivery cyclists waiting to have their e-bikes repaired. This is because MNC is the sole vendor of Arrow-brand electric bikes - the preferred e-bike of New York City’s food delivery workers! Throttle-assist e-bikes were legalized during the COVID-19 shutdown as food delivery became an essential service to support the local community. Prior to that, food delivery cyclists – often Chinese and Latino immigrants – often had their e-bikes confiscated by the New York City Police Department. Listen as you walk by, to the throttle of the ebike – the unsung workhorse bringing food to the masses.
If you are here on a warm weekend morning, you may see retired Chinese gentlemen in the garden with ornate bamboo birdcages, each holding different birds. The showstopper is the hua mei, with the loudest and most varied song. Do respect the enjoyment of the beautiful birdsong and keep talking to a minimum!