Wednesday, December 12, 2007

More Tourism for Sunset Park?

The following story just broke at the AP.

NEW YORK (AP) — Chinese citizens flush with cash from their booming economy will find it easier to vacation in the U.S. following a long-awaited agreement that the American travel industry hopes will bring in billions of dollars.

The deal, signed Tuesday by U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez in Beijing, will allow Chinese travel agencies to market packaged leisure tours to American destinations, and it will permit U.S. destinations to advertise directly to the Chinese public.


I would suppose that with the coming of so many Hotels into the Sunset Park area we can expect some of that tourism dollar to be dropping into the nabe. Do we need all this attention? What will it do to the neighborhood. And, while other areas are experiencing a building slump it appears our neighborhood does not appear to be a victim of it. At least not yet. Part of the explanation is that the areas where building is continuing is being driven by either Chinese or perhaps Arab money. Both groups that are culturally loath to borrow money and prefer paying cash so they are not influenced by the mortgage crunch.

It should be interesting to see, all these tourists in shorts with Hawaiian shirts snapping pics of the locals. Will the Chinese tourists be just the first wave? With the cheap dollar and the Euro priced so high maybe the Europeans may follow suit. OK so it's all a fantasy, or is it?

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7 comments:

Escape from Sunset Park said...

I'm puzzled by the building of the several hotels in Sunset. I was shocked when Marriott announced construction on their downtown Brooklyn motel. And I was stunned when it turned out to be an overwhelming success - especially that it charges Manhattan prices and is yet always full.
But Sunset Park allows me another chance to be wrong...lol.
I imagine the hotels will be used for visiting family members, folks exploring the chances of moving here, and business people.
I just don't expect the Asian immigration to continue. What I expect is that current Asian residents of NYC will quickly leap-frog deeper into America. I think we will be a jumping off point. And I think that once we hit a saturation point, our numbers will stabilize.
I also believe that when the inevitable recession hits our economy (and NY will by no means be insulated from it) housing will "crash" in Sunset. The middleclass kids living here and adding to the rent increases and the desire for more "hip" eating places will subside. Empty apartments will be filled with poorer folks, landlords will walk away from some of the bigger bank financed projects. Although you say that Asian's don't like mortgaging - a quick check of city records will show that all these properties under construction are being financed. The image of Asians with suitcases of cash is a myth. I'm not saying that there are not economic shennigans going on. I'm sure there are elements of money laundering going on. And I am certain that the heavy investment in Sunset is not a concern to the investors because they will walk away with their profits upfront...
but then again, I thought the Marriott would only rent on a 60% occcupancy rate...go figure...lol

Frank said...

One of the ineteresting things to notice is that when the Chinese settle an area they tend to stay there for generations. Look at Chinatown in Manhattan, or Chinatown in San Francisco settled in the late 19th century. Of course they are also next door to another group that tends to stick to the neighborhoods they settle and there seems to be some competition for real estate along the Sunset Park Boro Park border. As the Hasidim population expands they need more room. One way is up, the other is sideways. Thus for example you have the recently opened Yeshiva on 39th street and 7th Avenue.

As for Hotels, Sunset Park offers the advantage of being 35 minutes from midtown via subway. At least as long as they keep the D line express from 36 street onwards. A lot of the rooms taken at the current Days Inn on 39th street is by people visiting relatives at Lutheran Medical Center, we also don't have enough capacity to serve those visiting patients at Maimonides. That's all in addition to business users or tourists.

Escape from Sunset Park said...

In the past, folks tended to stay for at least two generations or more in a neighborhood. But those days are gone. I like to believe that I have my finger a bit on the pulse of the neighborhood. I've worked in cooperation with the Brooklyn Chinese American Association for a decade, recently I volunteered as an ESL teacher at the Chinese Workers Storefront and I've been interviewed several times by Chinese language newspapers. But the best way to keep up, is that I have raised five kids in Sunset Park and they have given us the opportunity to know many of our newest neighbors quite well. Asians have tended to come to Sunset as their first stop, group their resources, share a home and then when one can afford to leave they buy them out and they move out. Sunset Park Asians are now moving to the mid-Atlantic states and a bit to the midwest (just a bit). I believe Sunset will have a major Asian presence for many generations, but it will shrink and become quite a bit less static. My family entered the U.S. here in NYC, my dad, as a boy lived in Little Italy, write across Canal, on Mott Street, from Chinatown. As a teen his family leap-frogged to Carroll Gardens (the "old" neighborhood). And in a generation moved to today's park slope. When I was a teen, they moved to Sunset Park where us Italians had begun filling the void left by the Scandinavians who were moving to NJ. My grandfather was the proprietor of the Scandinavian-American barbershop on 48th Street. But he was 100% Italian. He had rented a single chair in the shop when he first started cutting hair and then later bought out the Norwegian owner. My gp decided it would be smart business to keep the name...lol.

Frank said...

How is Paul Mak these days?

I suppose that you're bound to have some leaving of the neighborhood and no doubt the more adventurous ones will go to other parts of the country. But neighborhoods change, the Hispanic presence in the neighborhood was at one time wholly Puerto Rican and Dominican. That has changed radically in the last 15 years with large numbers of Puerto Ricans in particular leaving the area. Sunset Park was after all established in 1964 to separate the Hispanic parts of the neighborhood from Bay Ridge and Park Slope. The demographics have changed radically and the neighborhood is not as hispanic as it once was. The Scandinavians that once dominated the neighborhood are now practically non-existent. I am not even sure whether it's possible to predict what the place will look like in ten years. My job running the website and selling ads has taken me to all corners of the neighborhood. In the last couple of years I have seen a flood of gentrification move south below 17th street from Park Slope. No doubt aided by the fact that Real Estate agents have renamed the are a Greenwood Heights to hide the fact it's actually Sunset Park. I guess it's marketing. Will Sunset Park's borders be redrawn at some point as it was in 1964 to placate one group or another? Only time will tell.

Escape from Sunset Park said...

Paul is fine. I saw him at the 5th Ave BID Christmas Tree lighting ceremony last week. Paul is no longer the young man that he was when we first met...but then again, I was already old back then...so that should make me...lol

He asked me if I would consider helping to form a Business Improvement District (BID) for 8th Ave.

Back in '64, as part of LBJ's War on Poverty the bureaucrats needed a "name" for the neighborhood from 17th St to 65th Street that would be getting poverty funding. Of course Bay Ridge wouldn't be right, nor would South Brooklyn...so up came Sunset Park. A half century earlier there had been an organization called "The Sunset Park Taxpayers Association" - but it really was a block of residents adjacent to the park itself.

Recognizing the need of many of the residents was a good thing. The methodology was also a good thing - the area was divided into seven or eight narrow bands, from north to south (funny, they didn't know it, but they were copying the style of landownership of the Dutch two hundred years earlier - water access was crucial to the Dutch and so each large landholding was a narrow band running east to west. There is a story of one guy who actually built a miniature canal from his doorway to the bay. At high tide he could "walk" to the waterfront via his little one-man barge...lol.

The mechanics of the poverty program, that I alluded to, was very careful to include local leadership in all aspects of the operation. This was no Washington types running the show. Also, it provided money for specific types of programs - each to be operated by a separate organization: housing, employment and youth services.

A story that I am personally a witness to, from that period, was when a free lunch program was opened on 6th Avenue and 20th Street, a local resident came out at lunch time with a rifle and chased away the hungry kids and the adults running the program. He kept yelling "This is not a poverty area" or something similar.

He, like many others, didn't recognize that with the success of the third or fourth generation of local Scandinavians and Irish, they began moving away and when the Verrazano Bridge opened they flooded away. Sunset Parkers who couldn't afford the big move to NJ, instead bought the homes left available by the parallel exodus from Bay Ridge. (Scratch a current Bay Ridger's surface and find a 1950's early 1960's Sunseter).

Back then I advocated the recognition of our neighborhood by its new name. I successfully had the South Branch library renamed the Sunset Park library. I started a group called the Sunset Park Village Council (which was at first an advisory group to the Community Board).

But today, I truly believe that the boundaries have changed. Sunset Park in my mind should go north only to 36th Street or so. My reasons are many, and they put me in opposition to my daughter (a civic activist in her own right).

Frank said...

I am writing this reply as I sit in the aptly named Sunset Park Library. I kind of prefer the borders as they are right now. Of course, I have a selfish reason as that allows me to cover more territory and to solicit business from all the businesses in the given area. Having said that, it won't matter what we think. Things are bound to change if they ever come up with another charter revision and re-name the area. I suspect it will likely become GuaShaCan. A combination of Guadalupe, Shanghai and Canton :-). Somehow Puebla doesn't led itself to a good acronym.

Escape from Sunset Park said...

Back in the day, there were specific benefits to recognizing that one lived in Sunset Park - for example, voting for reps on the poverty board was done within each "mini-district" (Sunset was divided into several). But today, I believe that the folks on the north end have a right to call themselves what they like if it helps them advance their sense of community. The area from 17th to 23rd really is more tied to the slope than Sunset. Except for the new "mega" condo buildings, there is little to no residential presence from 23rd to 35th (my apologies to my pals in the very residential three or so blocks of 29th, 30th & 31st around St Roccos). My friends there never really liked being part of Sunset anyway...lol.

I used to send letters to realtors who advertised sunset properties as park slope or south slope, saying "By authorization included in the letter they were reading, I was officially "teleporting" the property they advertised, to Sunset Park." I then, more seriously explained that for them to promote a wrongful neighborhood title to prospective tenants was to weaken the sense of community, the ability of the tenants to seek support for their civic complaints and in general would cause us to view them as businesses with no sense of honor or community!

I am currently working with the local businesses and the street vendors to create a "Plaza del Mercado Unido" special business district within sunset to unify our longtime residents with our newest residents in a venture that would attract shoppers from outside the regular catchment area and would allow us to "celebrate" the unifyinig essence of a community plaza or piazza.