Our Community, Our Challenge
When the Murray Hill Neighborhood Association was founded in 1998, we never would have imagined the complete transformation that Flushing would be undergoing 15 years later. Flushing had long been celebrated as a diverse multi-national community with over 130 languages spoken in it. In 1999 MHNA created the Flushing English Language Center to welcome and assist recent immigrants from many nations who spoke little or no English. Today all of our ESL students are from China.
According to the 2010 Census, the demographics of Murray Hill and greater Flushing have dramatically changed as a result of an accelerating rate of immigration from China and Latin America.* Current statistics for these two populations are most certainly higher.
A growing income disparity has accompanied these demographic changes. Some of our new residents come with the means to buy million dollar condos in downtown Flushing with cash. Many others with lower incomes are moving into middle class residential areas like Murray Hill. They often work at more than one low paying job and rent over-crowded apartments or residential subdivisions. Sadly, many of our undocumented neighbors are indebted to human traffickers from Asia and Latin America and avoid contact with the larger community.
The impact of sweeping demographic changes upon school age children of immigrant families is also a concern. Although the public school districts in Flushing still boast of high grade scores, many of the schools are becoming overcrowded and staffed by overworked teachers unable to adequately address the special needs of immigrant children. Children whose parents can’t afford to send them to an afterschool program often fall behind in their homework because they are left unattended at home.
Coupled with thousands of new residents, hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars from Asia are transforming Flushing commercial and real estate markets. Downtown Main Street and surrounding areas have witnessed a frenzy of new office and apartment buildings. Many of the once quiet streets of neighborhoods like Murray Hill are now congested as perfectly good single family homes have been torn down for poorly constructed multiple dwellings to arise in their place. Single family homes that remain standing are often extended to become illegal multiple dwellings.
While there may be reasons to celebrate massive investments pouring into Flushing, a community once known for its charming residential character has witnessed a visual assault by developers who seem to care more about squeezing out as much profit per square foot as possible than about community aesthetics and quality of life. This reality is rarely addressed or acknowledged by local representatives or city planning officials.
It is sad to say, but fewer and fewer of Flushing residents any longer feel an emotional connection to their neighborhood. The once intangible value of living in a stable community where neighbors knew each other has been replaced by the utility of the rising property values. Most of the long-time residents have sold their homes and moved out. Those who remain are increasingly isolated and resentful. Many newer residents are transient. They see little value in investing deep roots in a community they intend to move from once they establish themselves in America.
The human side to this story poses a unique challenge to the Christian community of Flushing. Regardless of ethnicity, immigration status, or how long someone lived in the neighborhood, the question for all who still call Flushing home is, “how then shall we love our neighbor?”
*Murray Hill is comprised by three zip codes. Statistics for these zip codes are as follows:
The 11354 zip code total population was 54,800; 58.7% was Asian and 16.2% Hispanic.
The 11355 zip code total population was 85,000; 70% was Asian and 15% Hispanic.
The 11358 zip code total population was 33,700; 41% was Asian and 16% and Hispanic.
Next: Our Community, Our Calling