From Think!Chinatown: Commercial District Needs Assessment + Roundtable Discussion, April 24

April 12, 2023

New Report Viewed as Step for Self-Determination by Manhattan’s Close-Knit Chinatown Community

Amidst challenges of gentrification, Covid 19 and anti-Asian crime, Chinatown finds strength in intergenerational connections and history of entrepreneurship

On April 24, Think!Chinatown, with the Urban Design Forum and Van Alen Institute, will host roundtable talk and discuss next steps for neighborhood planning


(April 12, 2023—New York, NY)—The NYC Department of Small Business Services (SBS), in partnership with Think!Chinatown and the Chinatown BID, recently issued a Commercial District Needs Assessment for Manhattan’s Chinatown neighborhood. Commissioned by SBS, Think!Chinatown and the Chinatown BID conducted interviews, surveys, focus groups, on-the-ground observations, and deep-rooted research from November 2021 to June 2022 to create this comprehensive neighborhood report. The report identifies the many strengths, challenges, and opportunities to optimize Chinatown’s potential, and will help prioritize SBS-supported local investments.

“More than just a report, we see this publication as a step towards self-representation within the process of city-making — a process in which the Chinatown community has historically lacked autonomy,” said Yin Kong, Executive Director, Think!Chinatown. “As a community-based organization working outside of established power structures, Think!Chinatown will continue to fight to be heard and to amplify increasingly diverse voices of Chinatown.”


  • Chinatown is home to 1,803 storefronts, with 76% of businesses catering specifically to the Asian American community
  • Younger generations are stepping into leadership at family-run businesses, continuing Chinatown’s legacy of intergenerational connection
  • A majority of business owners are committed to the neighborhood, with 76% of merchants intending to maintain or expand in Chinatown
  • Despite these strengths, 59% of merchants and 70% of street vendors reported a loss in business over the past year
  • Language and cultural barriers inhibit merchants’ and residents’ access to resources such as legal services, access to financing, and marketing support
  • Inadequate wayfinding, street furniture, and pedestrian space can cause transportation nodes to overcrowd

The Chinatown Commercial District Needs Assessment also identifies a number of opportunities, including enhanced connectivity between Chinatown’s historic core and surrounding neighborhoods; the creation of a cultural center that brings people to Chinatown; and new marketing and placekeeping strategies to promote Chinatown’s unique clusters of retail and professional businesses.

View the full report (PDF) here.


On Monday, April 24 at 6 pm, Think!Chinatown will host Planning Chinatown: Our Needs, Our Futures, a roundtable discussion at their studio at 1 Pike Street. The report and its key findings will be presented by Yin Kong, Executive Director, Think!Chinatown, followed by a roundtable discussion with city officials and local leadership. The event will be an opportunity for urbanists, community activists, city agencies, and community development organizations to engage directly with one another to advance neighborhood-centered change.

Panelists include:

  • Jan Lee, 3rd generation Chinatown resident and property manager
  • Alice Liu, Owner, Grand Tea & Imports; SBS AveNYC Program Manager + Community Outreach Lead, Think!Chinatown
  • Andrew Marcus, Director of Neighborhood Planning, NYC Department of Small Business Services
  • Deborah Marton, Executive Director, Van Alen Institute
  • Emily Weidenhof, Director of Public Space, NYC Department of Transportation

This event is organized in partnership with the Urban Design Forum and Van Alen Institute, and with support from the NYC Department of Small Business Services.

For full event information and RSVP, visit

About Think!Chinatown

Think!Chinatown is a place-based intergenerational non-profit in Manhattan’s Chinatown, working at the intersection of storytelling, arts and neighborhood engagement. We believe the process of listening, reflecting and celebrating develops the community cohesion and trust necessary to work on larger neighborhood issues. By building strength from within our neighborhood, we can shape better policies and programs that define our public spaces, celebrate our cultural heritage and innovate how our collective memories are represented.