- Travel and Places»
- Travel Activities & Ideas
Underground in New York - Chinatown Tunnels
Manhattan Chinatown is itself a relic—a 19th-century museum visited by 21st-century New Yorkers. The largest Chinese section of New York is actually in Flushing, Queens. The younger more affluent Chinese-American moved to the suburbs of Queens. Manhattan Chinatown doesn't fit the profile of the young, hip, absorbed Chinese-Americans.New York Chinatown population is said to be the largest in the United States orperhaps the entire North America.
New York City Chinatown is more than a 150-year-old neighborhood. Leading into the 1960’s, Chinatown was an ethnic closed society,politically and socially isolated by racial prejudice. Changes in immigration policies and the social upheaval of the civil rights movement, however, began to transform Chinatown’s narrow-mindedness. Chinatown continued to grow through the end of the 19th century, for the recent immigrants who continued to tricklein despite the enactment of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.
The Chinese Exclusion Act (1882-1943), to date is the only non-wartime federal lawwhich excluded a people based on nationality. It was a direct reaction torising anti-Chinese sentiment. This hatredwas mainly a result of the readiness of the Chinese to work for much less money under extremely worse circumstances than the white workers. The Act forbid naturalization by any Chinese already in the United States; barred the immigration of any Chinese not given a special work permit considered merchant, student, or diplomat; and prohibited the immigration of the wives and children of Chinese laborers living in the United States. The Exclusion Act grew more and more limiting over the following decades. The Act was finally lifted during World War II because China was a wartime ally.
Distinct from many ethnic enclaves of immigrants, Chinatown was largely self-supporting, with an internal structure of governing associations and businesses which supplied jobs, economic aid, social service,and protection. Rather than disintegrating as immigrants they assimilated. The previously imbalanced male-female ratio in Chinatown was drastically worsened by the Exclusion Act. By 1900 there were only 40-150 women out of 7,000 Chinese living in Manhattan. This distorted and abnormal social landscape in Chinatownled to its role as the Bachelor’s Society with living arrangements of usually 5-15 people in a two room apartment. There were buzz of opium dens, prostitution and slave girls deepening the white animosity toward the Chinese.
In keeping with Chinese tradition an internal political structure comprised of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association and various tongs/fraternal organizations, managed the opening of businesses, made funeral arrangements, and mediated disputes, among other responsibilities. An underground economy allowed undocumented laborers to work illegally without leaving the few blocks they called home. This whole structure gave rise to rumors of tunnels in Chinatown where people lived, and the “bodies” from gang wars are buried. The On Leong and Hip Sing tongs warred periodically through the early 1900s, waging bloody battles.
On the blog of illustrator Joel Kimmel, he discussed the drawing he did for an issue of the New York Press article. The topic of the article was a conspiracy theory of thousands of immigrants living in Chinatown tunnels. The drawing shows Kimmel’s interest with what is hidden behind the walls in Canal Street subway stations. The picture can be seen on his blog.
Today's 21st century conspiracy theory is from an article at A Journey through Chinatown. According to the article there is construct a network of secret room, fake walls and trap doors. All this is to hide the knockoff purses sold on the streets of Chinatown. The article entitled The Knockoff Squad describes the networks that extend down to mazes of basements, subbasements, living quarters and factories, all beneath the streets of Chinatown. No actual evidence of that was found for this article – except a video that gives a tour of Chinatown which includes a walk through a tunnel–turned–mall. The tunnel was from the old Chinese Opera House to an exit at a house – Wing Fat Mansion. Where there is smoke there it’s fire. If there is one tunnel, there are probably more.
Explore Doyers Street
Subterranean New York series
- Subterranean New York The Atlantic Avenue Tunnel...
Atlantic Avenue Tunnel, also called the Cobble Hill Tunnel, is said to be the oldest tunnel in the world. It definitely is the oldest tunnel in New York and perhaps North America. Its an abandon...
- Subterranean New York Grand Central Terminal
Built by and named for the New York Central Railroad in the glory days of American long-distance passenger trains, it is the largest train terminal in the world by number of platforms: 44, with 67 tracks...
- Subterranean New York - Fort Totten Tunnels
Subterranean New York The subterranean tunnel between Fort Totten, Queens, New York and Fort Schuyler, Bronx, New York has been a mystery for years. Historians, park rangers and common sense imply it is a...
- Subterranean New York - The 21 Club
Subterranean New York-The historical and landmark New York City Restaurant, The 21 Club located in midtown Manhattan near the Broadway theater district. The actual address is 21 West 52nd Street, New...
- The History of New York City\'s Chinatown
PGNY: The Paperless Guide to New York City -- Your guide to the city that never sleeps.
- New York City Chinatown > Newspaper Articles
Images and text capturing some aspects of what makes this community thrive, and to document the constant change that is ongoing. Manhattan NYC New York City map maps visitor info