ATI Neighborhood Tours: Chinatown, NYC

Published March 24, 2015
Updated December 5, 2017
Buddha statue in Chinatown, NYC

The Buddha statue at the Mahayana Buddhist Temple in Chinatown, NYC.

Found on the Lower East Side of Manhattan next to Little Italy, Chinatown, NYC is not for the faint of heart. As a visitor, you will be chum to the hungry frenzy of vendors eager to sell their ubiquitous wares for a quick buck.

They will tug at your arm and wave at you frantically to corral you into their open-air shops, selling good luck statuettes of Chinese folk heroes side-by-side with the same twenty t-shirts they all sell.

“Good price, sunglasses, t-shirt, handbag” is a mantra repeated over and over, spoken in the same memorized monotone as the Buddhists’ chants down the street at the Mahayana Temple. The smells of asphalt, fish, hand-picked herbs, and sweet pastry cling to you in Chinatown, but nothing else sticks around for long– the speed of Chinatown is the speed of commerce, and if you’re not buying or selling, then you are in the way.

Chinatown, NYC, as filmed in 1986.
Chris Altman
Chris Altman is a freelancing writer and artist based out of Brooklyn, NY.