Posted on October 26, 2021

Inside the N.Y.C. Neighborhood With the Fastest Growing Asian Population

Nicole Hong, New York Times, October 18, 2021

Yumpling, a Taiwanese eatery, opened its first brick-and-mortar restaurant in August 2020, when New York City was in an uneasy limbo between waves of the coronavirus. Indoor dining was still banned, but the owners had signed the lease right before the pandemic and could not keep paying rent on an empty storefront.

To their surprise, they sold out of food within three hours of opening their doors in Long Island City, Queens. A line of Asian Americans waited around the block for beef noodle soup and pork dumplings.

Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, Yumpling, which had operated a food truck in Manhattan, is one of at least 15 Asian-owned businesses — including a Mandarin child care center and hair salon — that have opened in the neighborhood since March 2020.

“The whole rise of the Asian American population has been crazy,” said Chris Yu, 30, a co-owner and native of Taiwan.

Long Island City, nestled in the western corner of Queens with waterfront views of Manhattan’s skyline, is a microcosm of a sweeping demographic shift: a booming Asian population that has become the fastest growing racial group in the country and its most populous city.

Asian residents were the driving force behind an unexpected 7.7 percent increase in New York City’s overall population since 2010, according to Census Bureau data released in August, upending predictions by demographers that the city’s population was shrinking.

Across the country, people identifying as Asian — a sprawling group of nearly 20 million people who trace their roots to more than 20 countries — are moving into large cities like Los Angeles and Houston, but also growing rapidly in states like North Dakota and Indiana. In West Virginia, the Asian population increased even as the state’s overall population declined.

The census data also showed that among New York City neighborhoods, Long Island City experienced the fastest growth in residents who identified as Asian, a fivefold increase since 2010. The nearly 11,000 Asians who live in the neighborhood make up about 34 percent of its population.

The surge in Asian residents has transformed neighborhoods — from Bensonhurst in Brooklyn to Parkchester in the Bronx — with the potential to significantly reshape New York’s housing market, small businesses and political representation. In June, a record six Asian American candidates won their Democratic primaries for City Council, including the seat representing Long Island City.

The Asian population in New York City jumped by more than 345,000 since 2010 to make up 15.6 percent of the city’s population, according to census data, accounting for more than half of the city’s overall population increase in the past decade. Asians were the only major racial group whose population increased in all five boroughs.

In recent years, Long Island City has evolved from a sprawling industrial area — a longtime haven for artists and Italian immigrants — into a sea of luxury apartment towers. It became a center of international attention in 2019 after Amazon announced and later backed out of plans to move its second headquarters there.

Part of the population growth has been driven by students and recent graduates from China and Korea, a far different profile than the restaurant workers and home health aides who have lived for decades in enclaves like Manhattan’s Chinatown and are now driving the growth of newer Chinatowns across southern Brooklyn.


Among Long Island City residents who identify as Asian, the three largest ethnic groups are Chinese, Japanese and Korean, according to 2019 census data.

Long Island City has also drawn a growing number of second- and third-generation Asian Americans looking to raise young families in a quiet waterfront neighborhood. The influx of families has fueled a shortage of school seats and turned education into a hot political issue.

David Oh, 43, moved to Long Island City in 2010 from Manhattan, where he works in finance, because he was getting married and wanted more space. Like many parents in the area, Mr. Oh grew up in Queens, where his mother still lives. He wanted a neighborhood where his children, ages 5 and 8, could easily visit Chinatown in Flushing.

“They don’t grow up feeling ashamed of their backgrounds or feeling like it’s inferior or not American,” said Mr. Oh, who is Korean and Chinese American.

Local businesses are racing to meet the demands of the changing demographics. Along Jackson Avenue, a main commercial corridor, signs on vacant storefronts advertise new businesses opening soon: Dun Huang, a hand-pulled Chinese noodle chain; Paris Baguette, a Korean bakery chain; and Mito, a sushi lounge.