Documenting the Spatial Practices of Global Migration



Northern Blvd, btw Flushing Main St and Murray Hill, Queens

Category : FIELD TRIP, SPACES 10/13/2011

For my second Field Trip destination I chose to visit the largest Korean community in greater New York area, generally known as Flushing, Queens. It wasn’t my first time to be there since my last visit when I stayed at Flushing area approximately 4 years ago for three weeks doing research at New York City. However because back at that time I was more into hanging out in Manhattan rather than Queens I never fully explored around the area. So this was an opportunity to discover new aspects of Flushing area, focusing on the Korean community.

I didn’t plan where to start with the observation but instead just got on line number 7 MTA express train which led me strait to Flushing Main St. station where my journey began. Although I already knew that Flushing Main St. station was more Chinese dominant area, I was surprised to see the growth of Chinese businesses and expansion in terms of boundary and variety of retail shops. However it wasn’t so difficult to find signboards with Korean characters and I eventually found out where the Korean businesses were concentrated.

Northern Blvd

Northern Blvd, Advertisement on the LIRR crossing bridge

Northern Boulevard just a few minute walk away from Flushing Main St. station is where this post is mainly about. More specifically the coverage range is from Main St. to 166th St. about one and a half mile area and the inner offset of this main boulevard.

1. Suburban Setting

Compare to K-Town in Midtown Manhattan, Northern Blvd in Queens was less dense and a car oriented physical setting, much similar to the suburban neighborhoods in general U.S. cities. Along the boulevard all sort of businesses are stretched out from grocery, bakery, restaurant, clothing shop, bank to offices spaces and etc. Because the main mode of getting to each retail stores is by using cars made the street pedestrian ways not so populated. (I suppose it will be more vibrant in weekends when people don’t work during daytime)

Small Korean Mall

2. Professional Services

One thing I found interesting was to find medical services established located near the houses rather than the main boulevard. Usually medical services are more likely to be found in CBD or along the main streets in Korea but here they were popping out from residential area. This will probably have to do with rents and access to customers, still interesting to see how all the clinics where opened in residential area.

Legal Services

3. Intermingle

Although 80~90% of the businesses seem to be Korean owned (assuming from the signboards in Korean) the neighborhood demographics didn’t seem to be Korean dominant. I saw much more non-Korean population along the streets. And according to the book which researched on immigrant small business in NYC titled ‘The Korean American Dream’ indicates that Korean businesses also serve and hire other ethnic populations living in Flushing area. So in terms of population this area can’t really be considered as a Korean neighborhood, but do to the nature of Koreans running various business makes the area seem like a Korean dominant neighborhood.

Chinese, Spanish and Korean

4. Local Economy

Flushing area known to be populated by the early Korean immigrants to NYC, seem to also establish a very own vertically integrated chain of services, forming a small local economy. This is easily visible by having property developed, designed, financed and even build by Koreans. (Through several new buildings that is under construction) I suppose distribution of goods to all the small retail shops must be also supplied by Korean firms in this neighborhood.

Designed by Korean Architecture Firm

Financed and Construction by Korean Firms

5. Density

Once again going back to how the buildings are used in terms of density from my previous field trip post (http://www.spacesofmigration.org/?p=1619), not only Koreans but the Chinese community also were fully utilizing the building spaces dedicated for retail business, which I guess not so common in U.S. It may look too complicated for someone not used to this kind of physical appearance but it not so difficult to get around once you’re used to it.

Concentration of Chinese Shops

Korean businesses

My field trip to the most prominent Korean community in NYC was mostly based on personal experience and observation. So there should be many questions about the history of how Parts of Northern Blvd looks like today. The ‘The Korea American Dream’ written by Kyeyoung Park can be a great guidance for your discover if you’re ever interested.

Link to book information (http://www.cornellpress.cornell.edu/book/?GCOI=80140100174560)


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