Open City: Blogging Urban Change
Chinatown Vans
By Sahar Muradi

 

Recently, my friend Diana and I decided to take the Chinatown van from Manhattan’s Chinatown to Flushing.  It was the first time for both of us, although Diana’s mom, who lives in Flushing, regularly takes the vans into the city and swears by its convenience and record speed compared to the #7 train. Although largely used by Chinatown locals, the vans are becoming increasingly popular among foodies, hipsters and others as evidenced by the handful of Yelpers, who give the shuttle service, on average, 4 out of 5 stars, and barring some offensive comments, all generally tout its ease and reliability.  (I was the only non-East-Asian person in our van.) And it was true, on a Sunday afternoon, for $2.75 each, Diana and I zipped from Division Street to Main Street in about 20 minutes.

It works like similar private vans in many parts of the world. They line up at dawn (one driver told me he works 6am – 11pm! — see Konrad’s post and a related article about the drivers’ grueling working conditions), throw open their doors and wait until all 16 seats are taken before leaving—which doesn’t take long.  And even though it’s a relatively short ride (compared with the 45+ minutes by subway), most passengers knock out so that it’s even more of an eyeblink.

On our ride, I decided to interview passengers about their experiences taking the vans.  First, I talked with Ee-chu, who was on her way with friends to have hot pot (which, Diana and I also ate after we toured the new New World Mall, which, for reference, 1) has great earrings, and 2) has a Grand Restaurant that is so grand, they were charging $99/person!).  Here, Ee-chu speaks about her preferences for the van over the subway, Flushing over Chinatown and karaoke over homework:

Once we got dropped off in Flushing, we met folks waiting to take the vans back to Manhattan.  I talked with Lina and Marisa, who both grew up in LES but were just visiting Flushing for the first time! They talk about buns in Flushing and displacement in LES:

Lastly, I had a great chat with Chris, a recent transplant to Flushing, and his friend, Regina, visiting from Philly. Chris talks about being part Jamaican/Filipino/Chinese with poor Mandarin skills and not experiencing racism in his new neighborhood. Regina talks about her Cantonese music blog, 903 Café, and proselytizing on the Chinatown bus from Philly:

One Response to Chinatown Vans

  1. JO says:

    99 per person?? damn!

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About Open City
Open City: Blogging Urban Change is an interdisciplinary neighborhood blog and community project coordinated by the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. Five commissioned writers, called Organizing Fellows, are working with community organizations and neighborhood folks in Manhattan’s Chinatown/Lower East Side (LES), Flushing, Queens, and Sunset Park, Brooklyn to collect oral histories and interviews, offer commentary about gentrification, neighborhood change, and produce new creative work around these themes. Read more.
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CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities was formed in 1986 (formerly known as the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence) as a response to an increase in anti-Asian hate crimes both in New York City and around the country (which included violence by police officers against Asians).
They have two offices – one in Manhattan’s Chinatown (which houses the Chinatown Tenants Union, and the new Asian Youth in Action organizing project) and the Youth Leadership Project office in the Bronx – and have members from all over the city. Over the years, CAAAV’s main campaigns have focused on community-based organizing work rooted in Asian immigrant and refugee communities. Although their advocacy and organizing work is focused mainly in Manhattan’s Chinatown and the northwest Bronx, CAAAV’s work also touches upon larger issues (such as affordable housing, war, and immigration) shaping communities all over the world: “Our work is primarily centered around issues facing New Yorkers, but always with a global analysis.”
CAAAV’s mission is to organize and build the power of working-class Asian immigrants, refugees, and youth to change concrete conditions and participate in a broader social justice movement. In the past, CAAAV’s work included organizing South Asian taxi drivers, Korean women workers, and Filipina domestic workers. Several of these organizing projects have gone on to become their own organizations, such as the New York Taxi Workers Alliance and Domestic Workers United. CAAAV’s current work focus on three different program areas: Read more.

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