For decades the major concentration of Americans of Chinese descent has been in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Flushing in Queens, and Sunset Park in Brooklyn. A look at the census of 2010 reveals some interesting data about the way the Chinese community in New York, and particularly in Brooklyn, has developed.
A new Chinese enclave has emerged south of Sunset Park at Avenue U in Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn’s District 15.
"What's been happening is that in this area, there's been a tremendous growth of the Chinese population and Chinese seniors," says Richard Kuo of Homecrest Community Services. "Right now, the Chinese population is approximately 12 percent of the total population in Community District 15, and that's approximately 18,000 to 20,000 people of Chinese origin. Of that number, about 10 percent, over 2,000, are seniors over 65. So this represents since the year 2000 a 25-percent increase."
Kuo was a visionary who predicted this demographic situation 15 years ago. He launched the first Asian senior center in the neighborhood to help the community’s aging population. First begun from a Presbyterian church with 200 participants, the Homecrest Community Services Center now has 2,000 seniors benefiting from a large list of services including health care and ESL classes.
"With the culture and the language barriers, it's very difficult for seniors to get access to what they're entitled to and what the services are," says Kuo. "So what we do is we provide that access, a link to government as well as to outside organizations."
The Homecrest Center expanded in 2004 into the Bensonhurst neighborhood as the Chinese community located there also continued to flourish and age, making substantial inroads into what had been one of Brooklyn’s leading Italian areas.
The Chinese population in Bensonhurst and Sheepshead Bay are made up primarily of homeowners, professionals, and voters who live in extended family households comprised of several generations. Kuo says that funds are needed to help the seniors in these communities.
"I'm hopeful that the Department of Aging will provide multi-year funding for this center very soon," says Kuo.
Kuo added that Asians are Brooklyn’s fastest-growing ethnic group.