DEFINING THE PROBLEM
Immigrants Call All Corners Of Boro Home
A fire killed four in this Elmhurst house that had been illegally converted. Tribune Photo by Ira Cohen
By Jeff Feinman
All it takes is a walk out the door and a stroll down Queens’ streets to see that immigrant presence in the borough is greater than it has ever been.
Main Street in Flushing, Junction Boulevard in Corona, 74th Street in Jackson Heights – they’ve all been transformed into their own culture-filled worlds within a world. Yet even with the great numbers of immigrants who have been welcomed to Queens with open arms, problems still abound as housing capacity is becoming insufficient and the number of illegal immigrants grows.
“I think there can be a more proactive approach in New York City to ensuring immigrant rights,” said New Immigrant Community Empowerment Executive Director Bryan Pu-Folkes. “We need to have an immigration policy that is comprehensive and leads to citizenship. The overwhelming numbers are here for the many reasons we’ve seen since the birth of this country – to do better, work hard, contribute, and find jobs.”
As immigrants frequently tend to migrate in groups, pockets of them can be found in clear-cut areas around Queens. Flushing is approximately 55 percent Asian, with a number of other ethnicities also dwelling in the neighborhood. Richmond Hill is known for its large South Asian community. Jackson Heights, Corona, and Ridgewood are well known for their heavily Hispanic populations.
“They come in and find pride, they find people speaking Spanish,” said Jose Tejada, executive director of Camara Empresarial Dominicana de Queens, about why Jackson Heights and Corona are magnets to the Hispanic community. “When immigrants first get here from Europe, for instance, they usually speak English as a second language. It’s a little bit harder for us to blend in; it can be a barrier.”
With the stream of immigrants increasing, housing has become a problem. Homes are illegally converted into individual apartments – as many as 12 or 14 in a two-family house.
The other side of the spectrum can be seen in the stucco palaces of Eastern Queens in Floral Park, where mammoth structures for single families – many of whom are South Asian – are popping up beside traditional Cape Cod homes.