Our America: Nepalese community preserving culture in Jackson Heights

JACKSON HEIGHTS, Queens (WABC) -- The Nepalese community is growing and helping to beautify and diversify the Jackson Heights, Queens neighborhood.

"Momos is popular and booming in this region. You'll find it on every corner," said Gyaltsen Gurung, General Manager, Himalayan Yak.

You'll find the steam-filled dumplings at the Himalayan Yak Restaurant in Jackson Heights.

It's one of the growing Nepalese businesses in the neighborhood.

"Set combines all the Nepali dishes, comes in one huge plate. Combines curries, and the three or four different achars, and sauteed veggies. We recommend this to customers looking to try Nepali food," Gurung said.

Gurung emigrated to the United States from Nepal to further his education in 2006.

One of the main factors driving population growth.

The number of Nepalese in New York City nearly tripled between 2010 and 2019.

They represent less than 1% of the total Asian population across the New York City region.

It's the 2nd largest Nepalese population in the country behind Dallas, Texas.

"We don't want to let our culture disappear," said Tshering Sherpa, President of the United Sherpa Association.

Sherpa is the first woman to lead the United Sherpa Association.

As a cultural and religious center, part of the goal is to teach Nepalese and Sherpa traditions.

Sherpas are a Tibetan ethnic group.

"Keeping our identity alive, saving our cultural values, that's the challenge here," said Urgen Sherpa, United Sherpa Association.

"Currently we are fighting for the NYC Care Campaign," said Narbada Chhetri, Director of Organizing, Adhikaar.

Cheetri is with Adhikkar which means "rights" in Nepali. Adhikaar is a women led organization that aims to promote social justice.

That includes improving conditions for domestic workers.

Chhetri says a large number of the Nepali-speaking community is in the industry.

"Domestic worker is working long hours and they are getting old and they are doing the elder care. And, who is going to take care of them," Chhetri said.

It's a fight for equity for a community that is increasingly diversifying Jackson Heights.

One thing remains unchanged, the reason people continue to move to the neighborhood.

"The fact that everything got built by the 1950s, the convenience to public transportation is what's made the difference as to why people want to come here to live and work," said Dan Karatzas, Jackson Heights Beautification Group.

People like Gurung and the thousands of other Nepalese who have chosen to make Jackson Heights home.

Watch "Our America: Asian Voices," on your local ABC station, wherever you stream: Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV and Roku.
Copyright © 2021 WABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.