In our Good Neighbors column, Emily Gallagher, our Community Outreach Coordinator, introduces us to the Lower East Side communities she works with every day:
Today Emily speaks with Steve Yip, from the Chinese-American Planning Council.
Tell us a bit about the work that your organization does.
I’ve been an administrator for the Chinese-American Planning Council for 16 years after 17 years in health care administration. CPC’s the oldest human service organization serving the Chinese-speaking communities, with roots in Chinatown and the Lower East Side. This organization began from the legacy of the Civil Rights era, and when the immigrant laws for Asian immigrants were relaxed. As a pioneer human services organization in this community, it has since developed into a large professional agency providing a broad spectrum of human services to the Chinese immigrant and the Lower East Side communities. CPC will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2015.
Where are you (or your family) from?
My wife and I are Asian Americans originally from the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a sansei, a third generation Japanese-American, and I come from parents of Chinese immigrant and Chinese-American heritages. My mother’s family has roots in Arizona from since the turn of the 20th century. I consider Oakland, California home.
When did you first come to the Lower East Side?
We came to the Lower East Side in 1975, just when more Chinese –speaking immigrants were coming through into Chinatown and beyond. At that time, the Lower East Side was obviously quite rich in history, though depressed and neglected. Little Italy still had its flavor as a community, as was Grand Street and East Broadway maintained its Jewish character. There was also an important legacy left by the struggle of Latinos and African Americans during the tumult of the 60’s and 70’s – some of this was manifested in the mural movement. Unfortunately, many of these murals are gone today. And the demographics have shifted significantly today.
What makes this neighborhood special?
It really was, and still is, an admixture of cultures. And of cultural collisions where — ironically — people had little to do with each other. This will change, and much of this will occur in the course of common striving for social change.
–Posted by Emily Gallagher, Community Outreach Coordinator