What to Know
- The impact of COVID-19 is felt, including when it comes to the economy. In Manhattan's Chinatown, the economic fallout brought on by the pandemic has been particularly bad
- Due to a decrease in foot traffic and an increase in anti-Asian sentiment, many Chinatown merchants are struggling to stay afloat, according to the non-profit Send Chinatown Love.
- Part of Send Chinatown Love's work included facilitating a fundraising campaign to support the "Light Up Chinatown" initiative.
The impact of COVID-19 is felt, including when it comes to the economy. New Yorkers and small businesses in the area, including those in Chinatown, are among those who have experienced the economic fallout brought on by the ongoing pandemic.
Due to a decrease in foot traffic and an increase in anti-Asian sentiment, many Chinatown merchants are struggling to stay afloat, according to the non-profit Send Chinatown Love. The organization estimates that as of September, more than 80 of the 307 restaurants in the neighborhood have closed since the start of the pandemic
Because these businesses are mostly cash-only and lack an online web presence, the organization seeks to build an easy-to-adopt solution to create revenue streams.
"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," according to Send Chinatown Love's website.
“People are struggling to keep their businesses afloat as restrictions for indoor dining still remains closed. And, that’s taken a toll on a lot of these businesses in which some had to close, unfortunately. We wanted to help as many businesses as we could,” Louise Palmer, a representative for the organization, said.
Part of Send Chinatown Love's work included facilitating a fundraising campaign to support the "Light Up Chinatown" initiative. This program allowed patrons to fund "Adopt-a-Lantern" and have a personalized paper lantern hung on Mott Street in their name -- reminding the city that Chinatown is open for business.
Now that winter has set in, outdoor dining, which many restaurants counted on, is no longer a viable option.
"Because of COVID, we don't really have much of a space where we can provide outdoor dining here," an employee of Cha Chan Tang restaurant, who did not want to be identified, said.
Now, colorful paper lanterns hang over Mott Street. Each decorated lantern has a significant meaning, including "Fu" for good fortune.
Donations poured in since the campaign kicked off -- helping the initiative reach the goal to install the personalized lanterns on Mott Street in phase 1 and 2. The fundraising for phase 3, which aims to adorn Bayard Street with lights and lanterns, kicked off with a set goal to complete the phase by Feb. 26, Lantern Day and the close of the Lunar New Year.
Patrick Mock, a community advocate and manager of 46 Mott Street Bakery, worked closely with Send Chinatown Love to make sure his lantern-centered idea came to fruition -- eventually gaining the attention, and a sizeable donation, from actor Will Smith.
Meanwhile, the Light Up Chinatown initiative is not the only program that Send Chinatown Love has rolled out to assist struggling businesses. The non-profit has also raised over $150,000. Part of that money will go to their "Gift-A-Meal" program to help aid struggling families.
During the Chinese Lunar New Year, which begins on Feb. 1, Send Chinatown Love is hosting a digital neighborhood crawl to help people celebrate while supporting small businesses in need.
Send Chinatown Love is the brainchild of Justin McKibben. McKibben, 28, is a software engineer, who wanted to take matters to his own hand by helping out people in Chinatown suffering through this pandemic.
"I remember craving dumplings from one of my favorite restaurants, 88 Lan Zhou and I go here all the time," he said. "My friend and I were walking to the end of the block, and I said 'I think we passed it.' Turns out the restaurant was closed -- no lights, shutters down -- due to COVID. That's what opened my eyes to all of the other restaurants that were closed too."
He added, "'Send Chinatown' was a love letter to our older generation. We wanted to tell them how much we love them and truly understand the needs of our merchants... It's an appreciation for all of their sacrifices that the they carved out in the past."