Queens shows how diversity is driving NYC’s economic boom

August 7, 2018

Elmhurst’s Chinatown. Image: Wiki Commons.

Recent economic snapshots issued by the state comptroller show that New York City has continued to experience record economic expansion in the past three years. This growth has been led by notable gains in the economies of Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx (Staten Island’s report is expected later this year), which since the 1990s have seen an economic boost from a large increase in their immigrant populations, Crain’s reports. The revitalization of these immigrant-rich areas has led to an uptick in the number of businesses as well as sales and job growth. Unemployment is at its lowest rate since 1990. Queens, the borough that is home the city’s most diverse population and becoming more so, is clearly one to watch.

The constant in all three boroughs, Crain’s points out, is that large population increases led by immigration since 1990 have led to revitalization over the last decade, which has lifted the number of businesses, business sales, jobs and employment. Of the boroughs highlighted, Queens has a higher average household income and a lower poverty rate than Brooklyn and the Bronx.

It’s also the most diverse borough in the city: Queens has a higher percentage of immigrants than any county in the nation with the exception of Miami-Dade. Of its 1.1 million people, the number who were born elsewhere is the fourth highest in the country. The recent comptroller’s numbers show the borough’s 47 percent immigrant population, and also a 54 percent gain in business sales, a 24 percent gain in private sector jobs and a 4 percent unemployment rate (the lowest of the three boroughs) since 2007.

As one of the nation’s most diverse places, with over 120 countries represented and 135 official languages spoken in its public schools, Queens is home to an astounding mix of the world’s cultures; nowhere is this more evident than in the cuisines available within its borders. Culinary Backstreets, then, is a well-qualified platform for helping to show just how deep this diversity runs.

The Queens neighborhoods with the largest immigrant populations are Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, Corona, Flushing, Forest Hills and South Ozone Park. With the exception of South Ozone Park, residents who come from Latin America and China make up the highest percentage. In Jackson Heights, the top five countries of origin are Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico, Bangladesh and China. South Ozone Park’s five top countries of origin are Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, India, the Dominican Republic and Ecuador.

No Passport Required” host Marcus Samuelsson makes an extremely relevant case in the TV series as it focuses on an Indo-Guyanese enclave in Richmond Hill, Queens.

The celebrity chef tells AM New York, “We’re showing real America and it looks vastly diverse, and the food has never been better. People want constantly quick answers or a monolithic answer to a very layered culture…Why can’t we start traveling within our country with the same open eye and be equally interested the way we are when we go to Europe?”


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