City leaders push for gateway arch in Chinatown

February 1, 2012 4:49:07 AM PST
Manhattan's Chinatown is one of the largest in the country, but have you ever noticed that unlike many other cities, there is no iconic gateway arch?

That could change in the near future, thanks to the help of some local leaders.

Efforts to create a Chinatown arch have been tossed around since the 1960s, but now a push is under way to give the neighborhood the boost that many believe it deserves.

Colorful arches mark the entrance to Chinatowns in Los Angeles, Boston and Washington, D.C. And the arch marking where Seattle's first Chinese immigrants settled was just erected in 2008 after a push from the community to help boost tourism.

New York's Chinatown has no such marker. There is a small kiosk with a dragon on top that has neighborhood information, but nothing grand and iconic. And that's just what Chinatown needs, according to Wellington Chen, with the Chinatown Partnership.

"For a community struggling, still recovering from 9/11, with loss of 16,000 jobs or more, and then the 55,000 workers that are not coming back to ground zero as of yet, it's a very deep valley to dig out of," he said. "We would love nothing better than to have a welcome arch."

Chinatown is vibrant, full of markets, restaurants and traditional chinese architecture, and the recent New Year's parade to mark the Year of the Dragon drew nearly a half million people.

While an arch that spans the roadway may hit a roadblock with the Department of Transportation, advocates say there are several potential locations where a smaller arch would work.

But it doesn't have to have a tradition look, like the array of red lights under the Manhattan Bridge. Leaders want to hold a design competition to find the best look.

The DOT says it has provided overviews and discussed initiating the process for a gateway, but so far has not received any plans for a specific location.

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