Editorial: The new minority

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Queens newest majority group is not new to Flushing at all. Asian Americans are now the most prominent demographic group and their numbers are increasing daily. The non-Hispanic white population is aging out.

Few will be surprised to learn that whites are now a minority group. Over the last 20 years, new Americans coming from mainland China, Taiwan and South Korea have totally changed the face of downtown Flushing. They invested in the downtown business district at a time when Flushing was on life support. People who once patronized downtown Flushing were drawn to the malls in Long Island where it was easy to park.

The transition was not always smooth. The new minority resented shops that opened with signs written only in Chinese or Korean. The message was clear: the new stores did not need their business. As was noticed in last week's paper, the larger chain stores have opted not to open in Flushing, even though thousands of commuters pass through Flushing every day.

But those who feared that Flushing would be nothing more than a second Chinatown were wrong. A new generation of Asians has created a thriving business district. With the exception of the RKO Keith’s ruins, Flushing has been given a second chance at life. There are indications that the immigrant community is on the brink of establishing itself as a political force to be reckoned with. The new, post-term-limits City Council may well see an Asian American representing Flushing.

Odd as it may sound, the Asian Americans must do their part to make certain that the older residents – most of them white and English speaking – do not feel alienated in their own neighborhoods. A good first step would be making certain that all business signs are posted in English as well as Korean or Chinese. Although we oppose legislation mandating this, it only makes sense to take reasonable steps to ensure that all people feel welcomes in Flushing, especially those who have called Queens their home for generations.

Updated 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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