A photo of a pier. An elevated structure has Long Island written on the walls in large blocky letters.

Welcome to Long Island City

Meet seven of nearly 11,000 Asians living in Long Island City, New York—the City’s fastest-growing AA+PI neighborhood

Courtesy of Xintian Tina Wang

Words by Xintian Wang

Amid the bustling growth of the Big Apple, a fresh Chinatown is emerging: Long Island City, a new epicenter of Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islanders (API+) cultural fusion for New Yorkers.

The most recently available census data unveils an astonishing fivefold surge in LIC's Asian population since 2010, now comprising over a third of its residents. Yet, this isn't merely a story of economic expansion; it's a saga of cultural resilience amidst the whirlwind of urban metamorphosis.

Nestled in the western corner of Queens, LIC is home to more than 11,000 Asian residents. According to a 2020 report from the NYC Mayor’s Office of Immigration Affairs, Queens hosts 52 percent of the city’s API+ immigrants in the neighborhood. The most prominent ethnicities among Asian residents in Long Island City are Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, as per census data from 2019.

Photos of willows trees in a park

Gantry Plaza State Park.

Courtesy of Xintian Tina Wang

LIC's streets echo the narrative of its historical transformationonce barren warehouses and empty lots now teem with a plethora of bubble tea shops and Asian dessert havens, mirroring the evolving tastes of its diverse populace. The relentless hum of construction signifies a new dawn for LIC, where every corner holds the promise of yet another Asian culinary gem in the making.  

Out of the 280 storefront businesses that are supported by the LIC Business Improvement District, 52 proudly bear the mark of Asian ownership, with 35 of those establishments having launched since 2020, according to the latest stats from Long Island City Partnership.

"What’s so special about our neighborhood is that we host our series of celebrations on Lunar New Year and the AAPI Heritage Month as a community, with more than 30 events planned on this Lunar New Year that lasts for a month," says Sierra Brown, Director of Marketing & Communications at Long Island City Partnership and lead organizer of this campaign. "Though not from the AAPI community myself, as someone from an underrepresented community, I am deeply invested in showcasing our neighborhood's ethnic diversity and the elements that enrich the cultural fabric of LIC."

A photo depicting a skyscraper to the left and a mobile crane to the right.

The construction of CityLights, Long Island City's first luxury high-rise condop.

Courtesy of Xintian Tina Wang

Originally an enclave for artists, LIC attracts AA+PI pioneers in industries beyond just the creative. Giants like Sony Corporation of America (SONAM), setting roots in LIC as early as 1960, laid the groundwork for the neighborhood's AA+PI heritage and economic prosperity, heralding a wave of international expansion for Japanese corporations. Similarly, visionaries like Isamu Noguchi, who established his studio in LIC in 1961, infused the area with cultural prestige, transforming neglected spaces into vibrant showcases of artistic brilliance.

With the impending expansion of the LIC Business Improvement District, scheduled to commence in July 2024, the neighborhood stands on the brink of further revitalization. Collaborative efforts led by the Department of City Planning, in partnership with Council Member Julie Won and WXY Studio, aim to gather community input and forge consensus on key neighborhood issues. Leveraging LIC's robust economy, prime location, ample transit options, and years of community-driven planning, this initiative seeks to chart a long-term vision for one of NYC's fastest-growing neighborhoods.

As LIC navigates through this sea of change, its identity as a vibrant melting pot of cultures and aspirations remains resolute, a beacon of diversity and dynamism amidst the urban landscape.

Now, meet the faces of Long Island City: 

A family sits at a restaurant booth dressed in matching plaid outfits.

Linda Nguyen and daughters.

Courtesy of Xintian Tina Wang

Linda Nguyen & Daughters
Ages: Linda, 43; Emma, 9; Bailey, 6; Kaitlyn, 2
Born in Los Angeles, to immigrant parents from Vietnam, and moved to LIC in 2014
Occupation: Founder of City Owlets & The Gastro Box NYC
Favorite Place in LIC: M. Wells (Québécois cuisine)

Linda, on being an Asian American mother: “When I first moved to LIC, it was still a semi-desolate neighborhood. I had neither family nor friends nearby. Raising a child with limited parental knowledge and support pushed me into postpartum depression. LIC, at the time, only had three options for children-based classes, but none of them provided new parent support classes or a learning platform for me to navigate parenthood. Being an Asian American mother of three daughters involves navigating unique cultural, societal, and familial dynamics. It often means balancing traditional values with the pressures of assimilation, while also striving to instill a strong sense of identity, pride, and resilience in my children. Additionally, it entails providing love, support, and guidance to help my daughters navigate their own journeys of self-discovery, growth, and empowerment within the context of their Asian American heritage. Most importantly, as a second-generation immigrant, I carry a grand burden of breaking the cycle that is embedded in our intergenerational trauma.”

A man stands in the streets in front of tall buildings.

Charles Yu.

Courtesy of Xintian Tina Wang

Charles Yu
Age: 35
Immigrated to the U.S. from Hong Kong in 2000, and has been working in LIC since 2013
Occupation: Vice president of economic development at LIC Partnership
Favorite Place in LIC: 929 (Mandopop bar)

On seeing LIC’s evolution: "I was at Manhattan-based Hunter College pursuing my master's in urban planning when I began delving into Long Island City. Through a project with LIC Partnership and my predecessor in industrial business services, we explored these facets of the community. Soon after, I secured an internship with LIC Partnership to conduct mapping work, and from there, my journey unfolded. Over a decade later, I'm still working here. Back then, residential activity was scarce in LIC, primarily dominated by industrial businesses and urban manufacturing. Today, the culinary landscape has blossomed, reflecting the area's newfound vibrancy. The AAPI population surge occurred more recently, particularly around 2018 to 2019, coinciding with a surge in development before the pandemic. As a first-generation immigrant, my Chinese heritage informs my approach to economic development. I leverage my cultural insights to foster connections with local Asian businesses, understanding their unique needs and preferences. This cultural fluency enables effective communication and collaboration, enhancing community engagement initiatives like the Lunar New Year celebrations."

A woman in a yellow dress stands in a park near a pier. Behind her, there is an elevated structure with the words "Long Island" written on the walls.

Karesia Batan.

Courtesy of Xintian Tina Wang

Karesia Batan
Age: 39
Born in Flushing Queens, New York, to immigrant parents from the Philippines, and moved to LIC in 2006
Occupation: Founding Executive Director of Queensboro Dance Festival
Favorite place in LIC: CultureLab LIC (community-built innovative art and cultural center) 

On growing up as a Filipino American woman in Queens: “After graduating college and deciding to pursue a dance career in NYC, I gravitated toward living in LIC because of the industrial vibe of artists and hyperlocal arts happenings here, its central location, and ironically, its affordability compared to other boroughs at the time. Over the years, the cost of living in LIC has skyrocketed alongside the high-rise developments in the neighborhood. It's been interesting to see that LIC has evolved to have a significant AAPI population. It's been nice to have more access to Asian markets, foods, and representation in LIC. Most importantly, as a Filipino American woman who was born in Queens, I felt I was only able to fully embrace and be proud of my heritage when I came back to this neighborhood. The societal pressure I felt during adolescence to ‘assimilate’ or downplay my heritage was no longer there. As a second-generation immigrant, I still navigate my Filipino-ness versus my American-ess. It's so important to me to continue to learn, preserve, and foster what I know of my heritage, especially from my parents and elders.”

A man stands in front of a restaurant door. The print on the window reads "Dunhuang LIC".

Runze Yang.

Courtesy of Xintian Tina Wang

Runze Yang
Age: 28
Born in Lanzhou, China, and moved to LIC in 2018
Occupation: Owner of Dun Huang, LIC Business Improvement District board member
Favorite place in LIC: Gantry Plaza State Park

On introducing hometown cuisine to the U.S.: “Since I moved here six years ago, I've witnessed a surge in Chinese international students settling in the neighborhood. Initially, there were only two Chinese restaurants, but now we count over 13 Chinese restaurants and more than 10 food trucks in LIC. This reinforces my decision to forgo a job offer at Google and establish an authentic Chinese restaurant in the U.S. after graduating from college. As a native of Lanzhou who came to America for education, I noticed a dearth of eateries offering traditional Lanzhou beef noodles and lamb dishes. Today, our cherished establishment boasts eight locations in NYC alone and a total of 17 across the U.S. I take pride in spreading the flavors of my hometown to a global audience.”

A woman standing in the streets. Cars pass by in the background.

Carlo Jiang.

Courtesy of Xintian Tina Wang

Carlo Jiang
Age: 21
Born in Luoyang, China, and came to the U.S. in 2021
Occupation: Junior illustration student at the School of Visual Arts
Favorite place in LIC: Teazzi Tea

On embracing tradition: "Coming from Luoyang, a city steeped in Chinese history, I've been deeply inspired by the sight of locals adorned in traditional Chinese clothing, known as hanfu. This rich cultural heritage inspired me to wear hanfu here in the U.S. since last year. Despite initial apprehension stemming from the anti-Asian sentiments prevalent during the pandemic, I decided to incorporate hanfu into my daily attire at school. To my surprise, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. I vividly recall a heartwarming encounter with an elderly lady on the bus who appreciated my attire as something from a museum collection. As an art student, these moments reaffirm my mission to infuse more traditional Chinese elements into my illustrations and designs. By embracing hanfu not only as a fashion statement but also as a means of cultural expression, I hope to foster a deeper appreciation for the beauty and depth of China's rich history among a wider audience."

A man sits on an elevated rocky platform outside a building.

Frank Wu.

Courtesy of Xintian Tina Wang

Frank Wu
Age: 39
Born in Michigan in 1985 to immigrant parents from Taiwan, moved to LIC in 2017
Occupation: Former president of The Court Square Civic Association; former chair of the environmental committee at Queens Community Board; sales leader at a tech company
Favorite place in LIC: Smiling Hogshead Ranch

On his involvement with community activism: "My journey into community activism began unexpectedly. Initially, it stemmed from a desire for practical improvements, such as the absence of trash bins on the streets. Feeling somewhat self-righteous, I sought to address this issue. I took the initiative to delve deeper into community concerns. Noticing safety hazards like the lack of stop signs and crosswalks prompted further action. I conducted research to understand the processes involved and approached elected officials and city authorities with a reasonable demeanor. This approach garnered respect and led to further involvement in community initiatives. Perhaps my most gratifying endeavor has been the LIC Ramps Project, which received approval in 2017. This project promises to deliver 50,000 square feet of new public space in Court Square, featuring amenities like a dog run and tennis courts. While it's yet to be realized, navigating the complexities of creating public spaces is a unifying force. It's about identifying shared needs within our neighborhood."

A person sits in a workshop surrounded by many repair tools.

Hazel Yan.

Courtesy of Xintian Tina Wang

Hazel Yan
Age: 30
Immigrated to the U.S. at age 16 from China, and moved to LIC in 2021
Occupation: Leather artist and founder of Curio Craft Design
Favorite place in LIC: Queens Bridge Park

On bringing cultural heritage to work: “While some might perceive living in NYC as a solitary experience, I've been fortunate to encounter numerous like-minded Asian friends since relocating here. In LIC, the community is paramount, and amidst the vibrant landscape, we've witnessed the emergence of many authentic AAPI-owned businesses. The rapid development of LIC sometimes brings about a flurry of new experiences in the neighborhood, which can be both exhilarating and disorienting. Last year, I made the pivotal decision to launch my leather brand in LIC, and the outpouring of support from visitors hailing from Flushing, Manhattan, and Brooklyn has been overwhelming. Just as my Chinese heritage influences my perspective, the vegetable-tanned leather utilized in my creations embodies a personalized touch. Through my work, I aspire to underscore the rich diversity and uniqueness within the AAPI community.”

Published on May 2, 2024

Words by Xintian Wang

Xintian Tina Wang is a bilingual journalist covering cultural stereotypes and innovations, including gender and sexuality, arts, business, and technology. Her recent work appears in TIME, ARTNews, Huffpost, Teen Vogue, VICE, The Daily Beast, Inc. Magazine etc. She is also the director of events for the Asian American Journalist Association (AAJA) New York Chapter. As a journalist of color and a visual storyteller, she is constantly speaking for cultural minority groups whose voices are buried in mainstream discourses. Her documentary Size 22 won the "Best Short Documentary" at the Boston Short Film Festival and an "Audience Award" at the New England Film Festival. Her photography work is featured in TIME, HuffPost, The Sunday Times, Air Mail, etc. Visit her website at www.xintianwang.net.