Chinatown 9/11 job loss hit Flushing hard: Study

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Nearly one-quarter of the 14,000 workers in Chinatown who lost their jobs as a result of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks live in Queens, a borough economic analysis group recently determined.

During the first few months of 2002, the Queens County Overall Economic Development Corporation studied the economic impact of Sept. 11 on Queens. The group found that in addition to job losses in air transportation, car services and printing, the borough’s economy has suffered a ripple effect from Chinatown, which has taken a severe economic hit in recent months.

“The Queens economy has lost over 20,000 jobs” as a result of the terrorist attacks, said Marie Nahikian, executive director of QCOEDC, a nonprofit group.

Located in the shadow of the World Trade Center, Chinatown was closed to non-emergency vehicles for weeks after the terrorist attacks. Heavily dependent on tourism, the neighborhood’s economy was crippled.

Asian Americans for Equality, a nonprofit advocacy group, has begun to study the effects of the Sept. 11 attacks on Chinatown. One of the goals of the study is to help involve Chinatown residents and workers in the planning of Lower Manhattan, said Christopher Kui, executive director of the group.

Kui estimated that in the months following the attack, as many as 14,000 Chinatown workers lost their jobs, or about half the work force of the neighborhood. Most of those put out of work were employed in restaurants and the garment industry.

While Chinatown’s economy still struggles, about half of those who found themselves without jobs have since been hired for other work, Kui said.

About one quarter of those who lost their jobs are Queens residents, Nahikian estimated, meaning Chinatown’s woes have left over a thousand Queens residents without jobs.

“The economic impact is much wider than the really awful impact that you can see visibly in Lower Manhattan,” said Nahikian. “[Queens’] unemployment rate has increased over 2 1/2 points. It has a dramatic impact not only on the economy, but on people’s lives.”

Chinatown’s bad economy has had a strong effect on Flushing, the center of the Chinese-American population of Queens.

Chinese-Americans began to settle in Flushing in part because of a housing shortage in Chinatown, Kui said.

“When we had not enough housing in Chinatown, they went to Queens and other places to find housing,” Kui said.

Fred Fu, president of the Flushing Chinese Business Association, agreed that Chinatown’s struggles were felt in Flushing.

Nevertheless, Fu said the impact was more strongly felt in the Chinese-American community of Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

“More people who work in Chinatown live in Brooklyn,” he said.

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.

Posted 7:05 pm, October 10, 2011
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