Open City: Blogging Urban Change
Lunchtime Rush
By Peggy Lee


I first noticed Bruce Lee by his bright, lucky-red awning.

Bruce Lee boasts 4 dishes and 1 soup, 4 platos y 1 sopa, for a price under 5 dollars- 50 cents cheaper, if you decide to take out and do the eating elsewhere.  I chuckled.  It was a Sunday afternoon in early October and I decided to take the 5th Avenue route back home after my light run around Sunset Park.  The Bruce Lee Restaurant seemed to have sprouted out of nowhere, taking up the corner of 50th Street next to the new, glistening Duane Reed, and sticking out among the panaderias, taco spots, and grilled corn vendors that make up this mostly Latino business avenue.  Bruce Lee makes no move to incorporate “Spanish” in his Chinese cuisine like the other 5th Ave Chinese-owned restaurants, where a side of plátanos comes with your pork fried rice.  Nor can Bruce Lee fit 3 avenues away on 8th Ave where the Chinese restaurants are so Chinese, English letters are foreign signage; and if you’re Chinese-illiterate like me, restaurants are differentiated by the color of the awnings.  Yellow is the color of my favorite Cha siu bao place.

As I walked into Bruce Lee to grab a paper menu, I surveyed the swelled buffet carrying chicken nuggets to steamed fish, and thought of the Eucharist.  Against the standard restaurant cling-clang, Spanish filled the air with intermittent exchanges of broken English between the Chinese workers and Latino customers.  Here, housed inside an internationally recognized Chinese-American icon, is the exchange of fragments: words, culture, food, and money.  On the outside, Bruce Lee sits conspicuously on 5th Avenue, almost prescient of future change with more and more Chinese-owned businesses springing in nearby areas commonly Dominican, Puerto Rican, and Mexican.  This change, whether it is foreseen as a “sprawling” Chinatown or more integrated Latino and Chinese business community, may be sensed through quirks or strange encapsulations of name, awning, storefront, design, etc.   Is Bruce Lee driven by business sense shaped by a use of American culture that affords the stranger minority friendliness, or is it simply a passion for martial arts?  All are possibilities called into question by a curious chuckle during the lunchtime rush.

Photography Store and Studio across Bruce Lee Restaurant

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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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Community Announcements
Manhattan CB3 Land Use, Zoning, Public & Private Housing Committee
Monday, May 2 at 6:30 pm -- Rutgers Community Center, Gymnasium - 200 Madison Street (btwn Rutgers & Pike Sts)

Brooklyn CB7, Land Use/Landmarks Committee Regular meeting
Continued discussion on potential 8th Avenue rezoning

Manhattan CB3 Economic Development Committee Tuesday, May 3 at 6:30pm -- Community Board 3 Office - 59 East 4th Street (btwn 2nd Ave & Bowery)

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