Chinatown, New York: Cleaner And Quieter Than We Thought? (2016)

Talk to most New Yorkers about Chinatown…

There’s a good chance they’ll tell you that Chinatown is both dirty and noisy. But is it? Using NYC’s OpenData platform, we acquired 311 complaints and population and square mile footage of neighborhoods in Lower Manhattan from the beginning of 2015 till now. Before mapping, garbage and rodent sighting complaints were ranked by square mile while noise complaints were ranked by per 1,000 residents. Garbage complaints were weighted heavier than rodent sightings, and noise complaints were weighted the least. Check out the interactive map below!

Interactive Map of Lower Manhattan Neighborhood Comparison

*Boundaries of Neighborhood Tabulation Areas were created by the NYC Department of City Planning using whole census tracts from the 2010 Census as building blocks.

Chinatown was neither the dirtiest nor loudest!

  1. East Village received the most garbage complaints/sq. mile. A total of 680.3 complaints/sq. mile.
  2. At 572.9 complaints/sq. mile, East Village ranked number one for rodent sightings.
  3. East Village also took first place for noise complaints. That’s 75.5 complaints/ 1000 residents.

By analyzing the data, we were able to determine that East Village and not Chinatown, was number one in terms of garbage, noise AND rodent sighting complaints. East Village, with the highest population density, had 28.5% more garbage complaints, 39.9% more rodent sightings, and 36.7% more noise complaints than Chinatown! While, population density played a large factor in determining which neighborhoods reported the most complaints, Chinatown, with the second highest population density, ranked second in terms of garbage complaints, third when it came to reports of rodent sightings and only fourth for complaints of noise. Proving that it is cleaner and definitely much quieter by comparison

So why aren’t there more New Yorkers looking to move into Chinatown? We took a dive into the situation to find out.

Who lives there?

Elderly low-income residents, young professionals, along with restaurant and construction workers who work in the area, now occupy the tenement buildings. More than 31% of Chinatown residents have been living in the same rent-regulated apartments for up to 30 years or more and those who stay rarely move out of Chinatown, that’s 6% more compared to Manhattan households. In a most recent study done by the Asian American Federation of New York Census Information Center, we found out that over 33% of all Chinatown households were living below the poverty level and over 19.2% of the population had Limited English Proficiency; factors that play into many residents’ decisions to continue living in the neighborhood.

What’s the Chinatown rental market like?

Due to the low Chinese household turnover rates, the residents of Chinatown have created an extremely close knit and self-sustaining community. “It’s like the Wild West! Many real estate agencies that specialize in Chinatown are reluctant to co-broke and most landlords feel uncomfortable working with agents who don’t speak their language. Most will choose to advertise their listings on their own or work with a broker who speaks Chinese. It’s really about who you know and what kind of connections you have,” says Samantha Dong, an agent from Town Residential. In fact, in our own investigation into the Chinatown rental market, the inventory of rental apartments was much smaller than other neighborhoods in the city and over 75% of that inventory is controlled by local brokerage firms who deal exclusively in the Chinese community. Most apartments therefore aren’t advertised publicly and are spread by word of mouth.

Effects of gentrification

Over the years, the Chinatown rental markets have slowly been opening to the rest of Manhattan due to the effects of gentrification.Using data from the Census Bureau, we see that Asians are no longer the majority group within Chinatown. The Asian population is decreasing at a much faster speed than that of the White population as evidenced by the fact that the absolute number of Asians in Chinatown has decreased by over 6.9%, while the white population has grown in the past decade by 5.4%. The population has also slowly shifted towards students and young professionals as more and more low-income families are slowly priced out of the neighborhoods as average rent rises.

Resources Used

“Neighborhood Profile: Manhattan’s Chinatown”, Asian American Federation of New York Census Information Center,

“American Community Survey”, United States Census Bureau,

“NYCOpenData 311 Service Request 2010 – Present” Noise, Rodents, and Garbage complaints for Lower Manhattan, 2015 Present, Pulled May 13, 2016,

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