By Jessica Easthope
The silence is deafening in Manhattan’s Chinatown. A few months ago, its streets were bustling. Now, an endless row of closed metal gates is the reality for the people who live and work there.
Chinatown was one of the first communities to shutter back in February. Now, three months later, the situation is dire.
Numbers reported by the Wall Street Journal show only 15 percent of Chinatown’s roughly 270 restaurants are still open. In all of New York City, 94 percent of Chinese restaurants are closed.
“People in our neighborhood are so worried. I’m very worried. I’m very concerned,” said Father Vincentius Do, the pastor of St. Agatha’s, a Catholic Church in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, a predominantly East Asian neighborhood.
Winston Chiu, the Chief Strategy Officer of Rethink Food NYC is also worried.
“A lot of mom and pop shops are closed, so it became a food desert,” said Wintson.
Winston is doing everything he can to end the stigma and hunger Asian communities like Chinatown and Flushing are facing.
“In addition to the virus coming and affecting the people we’ve seen people not come to our restaurants, one of our main concerns is that Chinatown will not be able to survive the pandemic,” Winston said.
He and other volunteers went door-to-door May 14 in Knickerbocker Village in the heart of Chinatown, bringing meals to the hundreds of residents who signed up with their door sticker system.
Winston said the food being handed out isn’t something generic you’d find at a pantry or soup kitchen.
“A peanut butter and jelly sandwich in Chinatown might not make sense, but something with chicken and rice might be a more equitable resource for them,” Winston said.
Rethink Food has been handing out nearly 9,000 meals across the city, daily. Every meal means one less person goes hungry until this community gets back on its feet, whenever that day comes.
“The Asian shops and restaurants, they closed a little earlier than the others,” said Fr. Vincentius. “I don’t see them opening up any time soon”