Fuzhou Province immigration increasing, rivaling Cantonese. Immigrants moving to Eighth Avenue, Brooklyn

In the mid-1980s, the number of Chinese immigrants with Taisan and Guangzhou background outnumbered North Eastern immigrants. They moved to Sunset Park’s Eighth Avenue, successfully establishing the “third Chinatown.” In the year 2000, Eighth Avenue experienced another change—an increasing number of Fuzhou immigrants moved into the area, and, as a result, the area’s real estate values doubled.

Currently, there are still a number of immigrants in search of real estate property in the Eighth Avenue area. Mr. Jung Sun Mui, who moved to Eighth Avenue about 16 years ago, said, “I would expect the number of Fuzhou Chinese to surpass Cantonese residents in this area within three to five years.”

Mr. Kwok Sui Tam, manager of a real estate brokerage firm that has been involved in Eighth Avenue development for the past 10 years said, “Due to the saturation of housing in the Chinatown area of Manhattan, and Fuzhou immigrants’ preference in living in the Chinese community, the Eighth Avenue area became a preferred neighborhood for them. About five years ago, this area began experiencing an influx of Fuzhou immigrants, which has reached its peak in the past two years. I believe the number of Fuzhou residents in this area is already equal to the number of Cantonese residents.”

Mr. Tam’s clientele consists of 80 percent Fuzhou immigrants. A two-family home was valued at roughly $300,000 two years ago, but the price now has reached to over $500,000. Mr. Tam said, “Fuzhou residents have a slightly different approach to home buying compared to Cantonese residents. Once they find a house they like, they are willing to pay a higher price in order to buy the property. Currently, there really aren’t any available units in the Eighth Avenue area. As soon as a property hits the market, it is sold. Long time residents are unwilling to sell their properties, as well.”

The most well-liked area among Fuzhou immigrants is between 50th to 62nd streets, from Seventh to Ninth Avenue. Most new home owners split homes into multifamily style, to rent portions to several families to create a cash flow for their mortgage payments. Even though they prefer to purchase houses, there is still a high market for house and apartment rentals.

In the past two to three years, rental fees have risen nearly 30 percent. Mr. Tam expects that within three years, this area will be predominately Fuzhou-owned.

According Mr. Jung Sun Mui, a long time resident of Eighth Avenue, even though there is a high increase in the number of Fuzhou immigrants moving into this area, most businesses are still owned by Cantonese residents, especially in the busiest blocks between 50th to 60th streets. There are many long time residents, like Sun Mui, who have been living in this area for years and are not willing to move out. Businesses owned by Fuzhou immigrants are mostly located between 40th to 50th streets.

Because of the influx of Fuzhou immigrants, this area has experienced some community changes, but most residents are not opposed to the newcomers. “Actually, with the newcomers into this community, “ Mr. Mui said, “we see new business opportunities. In the past, all the shops on Eighth Avenue close by 10 p.m. on, but with the late night spending of Fuzhou immigrants, there are at least 6 to 7 restaurants that remain open until 3 to 4 a.m.”

Sixteen year-old Fuzhou immigrant Man Chi Lo and his family run a street vending cart selling snacks on Eighth Avenue. This is an example of how Cantonese and Fuzhou Chinese are able to mix with each others’ community. Man Chi has run his business for less than three years, and already speaks fluent Cantonese. He sells Cantonese fried fish balls, Fuzhou fish balls, and Fuzhou fried cakes. Because of the Cantonese market in this area, his family especially brought in Cantonese fish balls for their customers.

However, there are some long-time residents who are worried about the increasing number of Fuzhou immigrants. Some residents complained that there are more gambling and prostitution houses on Eighth Avenue. Even though it is difficult to say that this is linked to the newcomers, other residents worry that this area will slowly become a red-light district. One long-time resident said if he does end up moving out one day, it will not be due to the high return on selling the property, but to the deteriorating community.

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