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美国唐人街为何衰落

2014-02-16
唐人街,美国唐人街
美国唐人街为何衰落?
2014-02-15 12:03:35

为进一步了解美国华人群体的变化,英国广播公司探访了纽约唐人街的新年庆祝活动。

唐人街是众多美国城市的一个特点,但社会活动家称,一些最有名的唐人街正不得不顺应社区高档化(即贵族化)趋势的发展。甚至其中最大和最有活力的曼哈顿唐人街也正在逐渐被豪华商店和公寓楼所侵蚀。

傍晚,在东百老汇的“老三小吃”,梅荣松(音译)正在为最后几名用餐的顾客服务。柜台上堆放着盛着猪血、猪心、猪肠的金属托盘,后面巨大的金属蒸笼正煮着食物。梅的餐厅已经开了十年,用餐顾客主要是20世纪80年代开始移民过来的一波来自中国东南部福州地区的移民。

但高昂的租金使得中国移民逐渐退出该地区,富裕的白人接手这些地方取而代之。

“我的店供应福州特色食品,但随着这一街区的福州人逐渐搬迁,我店里的顾客也越来越少。”她说道,“我不知道我还能在这待一年多还是两年。”

19世纪后期,中国移民数量迅速增长,使美国形成了唐人街,尽管华人从一开始就遭受了长期的排挤和歧视。随着1965年移民法案的颁布,又一大波中国移民来到美国。但近几十年来,旧的唐人街却在收缩。

“唐人街正在变成一个清洗改造过的、充满外国风情的娱乐场所,以满足富人的异域猎奇心理。他们在这里享受中国点心和签饼(美国的中国餐馆特有的折叠形小饼,内藏预测运气的纸签)。”安德鲁·梁(Andrew Leong)如是说。他近期参与撰写了一份描述了纽约、波士顿、费城等地唐人街高档化现象的报告。

这一现象还有华盛顿特区版本,那里的唐人街看上去只是一个中国餐馆、礼品商店和华丽拱门的集合体。

之所以出现这种现象,部分原因是中国移民家庭在美国获得了成功。他们中的许多人已经从曼哈顿唐人街搬到了法拉盛、皇后区和布鲁克林区日落公园等地较新的华人街区。

但到现在为止,纽约的新华人移民始终在填入“前辈”搬走后留下的位置。

成千上万的工薪阶层家庭仍然居住在唐人街简陋的公寓楼里,由城市租金控制法保护着。在这里做生意很少用到英语。在寒冷冬季里的一天,顾客们停留在出售中国食品的摊位前,或聚集在地下室菜市场。

曼哈顿唐人街的某些菜市场建在地下室中

曼哈顿唐人街的某些菜市场建在地下室中

“一百年来,这里一直是一个非常有活力的移民中心,因为它保留了作为移民门户的职能。在这里,新移民进来之后能够找到住房和工作关系网。”纽约巴鲁克学院的人类学家肯·盖斯特(Ken Guest)说,“在新移民们盘算如何在美国经济体制里闯出一条路的时候,东百老汇就是第一站。”

在那里提供服务的包括移民代理、中国医生、凉茶店、律师、电话卡公司、银行和电汇公司。

在美国,有些巴士线路由华人经营。唐人街的就业机构把求职者分配到巴士线沿途的中餐馆去工作,最远甚至到落基山脉。盖斯特说,任何时候都有估计50,000人通过这个关系网找工作。

正是这样一个群体保持了唐人街与众不同的特征。店铺招牌、语言、杂货店、餐馆的风味都与任何其他曼哈顿街区不同。游客来到唐人街意味着进入了一个亚文化氛围。

然而事情正在发生改变。

亚美法律援助基金发布了唐人街高档化趋势报告。从2000年到2010年,亚裔人数在各地唐人街总人口中的比重有所下降,纽约唐人街从48%下降到45%,曼哈顿唐人街从57%下降到46%,费城唐人街从49%下降到30%,与此同时,白人比重在这三城中有所上升。

报告称,由于当地政府鼓励商业发展,低收入家庭和小商户已经被移走了。

在纽约,这一发展进程还没有那么快,安德鲁·梁说。但即使在那里,高端商店、非亚裔的餐馆和奢华公寓也呈蔓延趋势。

纽约曼哈顿唐人街的住宅分布

纽约曼哈顿唐人街的住宅分布,黄色表示出租的公寓楼,红色表示豪华住宅

纽约曼哈顿唐人街的商业分布情况

纽约曼哈顿唐人街的商业分布,蓝色表示小商户,黄色表示当地连锁店,橙色表示全国连锁店,红色表示高端商店

纽约曼哈顿唐人街餐馆分布

纽约曼哈顿唐人街餐馆分布,蓝色为中餐馆,黄色为亚洲餐馆,红色为其他餐馆





研究表明,过去的成衣工厂已经变成了昂贵的公寓,而且房东们非法驱逐了那些低收入住户。

郑之琴(音译)的叙述与报告内容相呼应。他是一位社会活动家,见证了过去十年里,低收入租户们越来越重的生活压力,这其中许多都是华人。

“他们一直想方设法促使人们离开这里,有时候停止供应热水或暖气,或者极尽所能地提高租金,”她说,“我发现居住在唐人街的邻居和朋友们普遍遇到过这种情况,这个地区的其他一些公寓也一样。”

郑说,大型的春节庆祝活动让唐人街的移民们感到如在家般的温暖。但是今年,她的房东极力要求保持公寓的整洁,第一次要求她不要在前门贴亮红色的春联。

越来越多的中国移民不再住在唐人街了,只是在白天来做生意,或者周末来购物。

26岁的初级雇员辛西娅·顾(Cynthia Koo)曾在唐人街读小学,她说所有儿时的伙伴中仅剩一人还留在这一街区。她的妈妈曾经在制衣业工作,但1990年该行业迅速衰败。她的爸爸经营着一家唐人街餐馆,可如今餐馆里的顾客不再是中国人了。

“我觉得这有点难过,”她说,“我深切感觉到这里少了许多活力。”

但是一些人主张,唐人街为了生存,不得不适应这一切。威灵顿·陈(Wellington Chen)运营着一个帮助邻里从911袭击中恢复的社区网站。他认为只关注高档化问题是一种认知错位。

“最终,细小的分别也会使我们之间产生阶级分化、性别、种族之类的东西,这些毫无意义,”他说,“最优秀的群体,就像最优秀的个体一样,能够灵活、机敏、迅速地适应各种改变。”

陈支持华埠商业发展区(Business Improvement District,BID)计划,该计划用本地商户的税金支付改善当地环境的费用。陈迫切想使这一区域更好地接纳其他人,他希望服务员说着更流利的英文。他还表示,支持建设醒目的唐人街牌楼。

正是这种主张使安德鲁·梁担忧,唐人街正变成迎合富裕游客的“充满外国风情的娱乐场所”。

最近的一些研究提出,真正能从高档化进程中获益的是该地区的原住居民。虽然弱势租户会被迫离开,那些留下的或许会受益于改善的服务和更好的信用评级。

但纽约亨特学院的教授彼得·邝(Peter Kwong)却认为,虽然这可能适用于一些因工业衰退而饱受煎熬的社区,但并不适用于唐人街。

他说,这也解释了为什么当地对BID计划和“改划分区”法律的抵制。后者允许未来进行房地产开发。

“曼哈顿几乎全部高档化了,唐人街是剩下的几块街区之一,”他说道,“有很多热钱看准这里,就是想把这里变成旅游目的地,一个离奇有趣的地方,那种让偏好异域风情的富人趋之若鹜的地方。”

《美国唐人街》的作者邦妮·徐(Bonnie Tsui)说,当华人群体衰落,“对于一个像唐人街那样每天充满活力的街区,这就形成更巨大的失落感”。

参观者“喜欢那种文化的凝集,喜欢那种丰富的体验,他们喜欢人们讲着不同的语言,因为这感觉像在外国而又似曾相识,”她解释说,“他们根本无法在众多其他街区看到这些了。”

西方参观者在纽约曼哈顿唐人街

西方参观者在纽约曼哈顿唐人街

(BBC记者Aidan Lewis,龙腾网﹏奺羙﹏译,观察者网岑少宇校,点击下一页查看原文)





The BBC visits New York's Chinatown for the new year celebrations to see how the community is changing.

Chinatowns are a feature of many US cities, but some of the best known are succumbing to gentrification, campaigners say. Even one of the largest and most vibrant, in Manhattan, is slowly being invaded by luxury shops and apartment buildings.

It's late afternoon and Mei Rong Song is serving a few last customers in Lao San Snack on East Broadway. Giant metal pots steam behind a counter stacked with metal trays of pig's blood, heart and intestines. Mei has run her restaurant for a decade, catering to a wave of immigrants who began arriving in the 1980s from Fuzhou in south-eastern China.

But high rents have been pushing Chinese immigrants out of the area, their place taken by wealthier white tenants.

"My shop has Fuzhou speciality foods, and as Fuzhounese people stop living in this neighbourhood there's less and less demand for what I sell," she says. " I don't know that I can stay for more than a year or two."

Rapid immigration led to the formation of US Chinatowns in the late 19th Century, though a long period of exclusion and discrimination for the Chinese began around the same time. The next large wave of arrivals followed the 1965 Immigration Act, but in recent decades older Chinatowns have shrunk.

"Chinatowns are turning into a sanitised ethnic playground for the rich to satisfy their exotic appetite for a dim sum and fortune cookie fix," says Andrew Leong, one of the authors of a recent report that charted gentrification in New York, Boston and Philadelphia's Chinatowns. Washington DC's version is little more than a collection of Chinese restaurants, gift shops and an ornate arch.

This is partly a result of the success of Chinese immigrant families. Many of those from Manhattan's Chinatown have moved to younger Chinese neighbourhoods in Flushing, Queens and Brooklyn's Sunset Park.

But up to now, new arrivals in New York have always taken their place.

Thousands of working-class families still live in Chinatown's humble tenement buildings, protected by the city's rent-control laws. English is seldom used for business. On an icy winter's day, shoppers stop at stalls selling Chinese delicacies, and cluster in a basement fish and vegetable market.

"It's remained a very dynamic immigrant centre for 100 years because it's retained its ability to be an immigrant gateway - a place where new immigrants come in and are able to find housing and job networks," says Ken Guest, an anthropologist at New York's Baruch College. "East Broadway is the first stop as people try to figure out how to make their way in the US economy."

Services on offer there include immigration agencies, Chinese doctors, herbal shops, lawyers, phone card companies, banks and wire transfer firms.

Employment bureaus send people out to jobs in restaurants on Chinese-run bus routes that stretch as far as the Rockies. An estimated 50,000 people are passing through this network at any one time, says Guest.

It's this community that has preserved Chinatown's special character. The shop signs, the language, the groceries, the aroma of the restaurants are unlike those of any other Manhattan neighborhood. Visitors to Chinatown have entered a subculture.

Yet things are changing.

The report on gentrification, published by the Asian American Legal Defense Fund, finds that from 2000-2010 the share of the Asian population has fallen from 48%-45% in New York's Chinatown, 57%-46% in Boston's, and 49%-30% in Philadephia's, and that the share of the white population rose in all three cities.

As local government encourages commercial development, low-income families and small businesses have been displaced, the report says.

The process is less advanced in New York, says Andrew Leong. But even there high-end stores, non-Asian restaurants and luxury apartment buildings have been spreading.

Former garment factories have been converted into expensive lofts and landlords have illegally evicted low-income residents, the study says.

This story is echoed by Zheng Zhiqin, a campaigner who has noticed growing pressure on low-income tenants, many of them Chinese, over the past 10 years.

"They're encouraging people to leave all the time. Sometimes by not providing hot water, or adequate heat, and raising the rents as high as they can," she says. "I see this happening all over Chinatown with my neighbours and friends, and in other buildings in the area."

Zheng says big celebrations for Chinese festivals allow immigrants to feel "very much at home" in Chinatown. But this year her landlord, keen to keep the building tidy, asked her for the first time not to hang a traditional bright red scroll from her front door for Chinese New Year.

Increasing numbers of immigrants live outside Chinatown and come in for business during the day, or a weekend shopping trip.

Cynthia Koo, a 26-year-old start-up employee who went to elementary school in Chinatown, says that all but one of her childhood friends have left the neighbourhood. Her mother used to work in the garment industry before its rapid decline in the 1990s and her father manages a Chinatown restaurant that she says now serves non-Chinese communities.

"I think it's a little sad," she says. "It definitely from my experience feels a lot less lively."

But some argue that Chinatown has to adapt in order to survive. Wellington Chen, who runs a community network formed to help the neighbourhood recover after the 9/11 attacks, thinks the focus on gentrification is misplaced.

"At the end of the day the narrow splitting of us versus them - the class differentiation, the gender, the race thing - that's nonsense," he says. "The best communities, just like the best individuals, are the ones that can adapt to changes very flexibly, nimbly, quickly."

Chen supports Chinatown's Business Improvement District (BID) scheme, which uses levies from local business owners to pay for projects to spruce up the area. Keen to make the area more welcoming to outsiders, Chen would like to see waiters speaking better English and has expressed support for the construction of an eye-catching Chinatown arch.

It's ideas like this that feed Andrew Leong's fears of an "exotic playground" for wealthy visitors.

Some recent research suggests that gentrification can actually benefit an area's original residents. Though vulnerable tenants can be pushed out, those who stay may benefit from improving services and better credit ratings.

But Peter Kwong, a professor at New York's Hunter College, says that while this may apply to struggling communities in areas suffering from industrial decline, it doesn't apply to Chinatown.

That explains local resistance to the BID and to "rezoning" laws that allow for future property development, he says.

"Manhattan is practically all gentrified - this is one of the last areas," he says. "There is a lot of money targeting this area, that would like to see this place [become] a destination for tourism - a quaint place, kind of a hip place for rich people with an ethnic flavour."

Bonnie Tsui, author of the book American Chinatown, says that when Chinese communities decline "there is this larger sense of loss of that everyday vibrancy that a neighbourhood like Chinatown has".

Visitors "like that concentration, they like that richness of experience, they like that people are speaking in a different language because it feels foreign yet familiar," she argues.

"They don't really see that in many neighbourhoods any more."
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原标题:美国唐人街在缓慢衰落 本文仅代表作者个人观点。



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