Volunteers signed up to help bring back tourism to Chinatown.
It has been no secret that Chinatown and Little Italy businesses have been suffering from the lack of tourism and all-around foot traffic in the area. With no out-of-town visitors, storefronts have been left abandoned and obscured by graffiti smeared shutters. Although the vaccine is reaching more arms than ever and the city’s reopening is imminent, life in the Lower Manhattan community remains far from 2019 levels of pedestrian movement.
In addition to the nearly endless choice of eateries from which to dine, Chinatown is also home to an amass of history. From notorious tales of the 19th century neighborhood labeled Five Points to becoming a bustling site for cultural entertainment, a group of volunteers are hoping to use this history to entice people back to the community, and, in turn, the vast array of struggling shops by offering guided tours.
The men and women from Big Apple Greeter who will be hosting outings are not alike, in fact many do not hail from Chinatown, however, they all share one very important aspect: a passion for the area’s historical importance. The Big Apple Greeter group has been in operation for almost three decades, and in that time has built up a strong relationship with residents over the city. In an effort to simulate the once-bustling district, the group is now offering tours free of charge.
On Saturday, about 40 guides celebrated the beginning of this venture by gathering at the Chinatown Information Kiosk on Baxter and Canal Streets where Executive Director of the Chinatown BID, Wellington Chen and co-chair of Big Apple Greeter Patrick Condren thanked the volunteers for their dedication and discussed the tours.
The organization will be working with local shops and restaurants by placing stickers in storefront windows with a QR code that will lead patrons to the Big Apple Greeter website and, in turn, back to Chinatown where they can discover historical facts, they may have never been aware of. For instance, Chinatown was developed in the late 1800s as a haven for refugees searching for a better life, leading to the creation of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association. While the American Government denied basic protections during that time, this association helped provide medical care, housing and jobs.
It is small factual tidbits like these that this tour group will employ to entice the minds of visitors.
“This is so wonderful from so many different angles, they represent the best of New York City,” Chen told amNewYork Metro, adding, “How do you take a bite of a Big Apple that is almost nine million people? One bite at a time and one Big Apple Greeter at a time.”
Both Chen and Big Apple Greeter are hoping to bring back life to Chinatown, if it is one small group at a time.