The Melting Pot on a High Boil in Flushing

May 2, 2008


Source: The New York Times

IT was slow going on the thronged sidewalks of downtown Flushing, Queens, one recent spring afternoon, in the heart of its huge and bustling Asian community. Along Main and Union Streets many of the signs and the conversations are in Chinese, Korean or Vietnamese. A street vendor blasted Chinese pop music. At a sidewalk counter you can buy Peking duck to go. I passed under the wide window of a tea shop where high school kids sat people-watching and text-messaging as they sipped bubble tea, the sweet Chinese tea with pearls of tapioca in it. At a Chinese grocery tiny grandmas elbowed me aside, the better to haggle with the grocers over vegetables and fruit.

I was walking with John C. Liu, the city councilman for District 20, which includes Flushing. Mr. Liu was born in Taiwan and has lived in Flushing since his family moved there in 1972, when he was 5. In 2002 he became the first Asian-American on the New York City Council. He was happy to play tour guide on the crowded streets.

Indians, Pakistanis and Afghans also make their homes in Flushing, alongside growing groups of Mexicans and Central Americans. They have all followed previous waves of Russians, Greeks, Italians, Irish and African-Americans.

If America really is a melting pot, Flushing seems one place where it’s on a high boil.