Last Saturday, a 200-strong audience comprising of residents, artists, gallerists and community members all gathered for a townhall discussion on the issue of Chinatown’s gentrification and displacement of longtime residents and small businesses.
The event, “Chinatown Is Not For Sale”, organized by Decolonize This Space, the Chinatown Art Brigade and Artist Space, sought to bring attention the potential dramatic consequences of increasing rent hikes, luxury property developments, and how galleries and artists involuntarily play a role in this evolution of Chinatown.
Liz Moy, an artist, longtime Chinatown resident and member of the Chinatown Art Brigade laid bare the sad reality that whilst artists and gallerists can decide where they belong, many of the long-term tenants of Chinatown don’t have this luxury.
The main goal of the night was to increase awareness and find out ways in which artists and galleries can support local residents and the businesses of Chinatown and do their part to help prevent further displacement. These include becoming active participants in efforts to protect existing tenants, fight for zoning laws and housing policies that support Chinatown’s existing tenants.
Betty Yu, an artist and co-founder of the Chinatown Art Brigade, presented the Brigade’s eight-point pledge of resistance for artists, gallery owners and the broader community. The first and most important step is for people to be aware, and then get involved. Start by simply supporting the local businesses that have been in the area for generations and are essential for the survival of low- to middle-income residents. Join organizing efforts to pressure the city council and mayor to endorse and pass the community-led Chinatown Working Group’s rezoning plan and other policies that support affordable housing.
Whatever action, whether small or big can make a difference.
The large turnout is a positive sign that artists, gallerists and the broader community are taking notice and that the eight-point pledge is the step towards the right direction in producing concrete and positive changes to the Chinatown community.
Decolonize This Place continues at Artists Space (55 Walker Street, Tribeca, Manhattan) through December 17. Their second event in the series, NYC not for sale will focus on the role of artists and activists within gentrification in NYC on Saturday, October 29 at 7pm.
You can watch the entire discussion here.