Theses Master's

Preserving Chinatown: The Impact of Borough-Based Jails on Manhattan's Chinatown

Cheung, Kimberly

New York City’s historic Chinatown is an ethnic enclave that has supported generations of Chinese immigrants by providing a space for housing, work, and opportunities which are inaccessible to them elsewhere in the city. However, with increasing real estate demand and Chinatown’s prime location in Downtown Manhattan, the neighborhood has faced aggressive displacement practices like tenant buyouts, rent deregulation, and luxury (unaffordable) developments that has transformed the enclave. It has become increasingly difficult and unaffordable for Chinese residents to live in the area.

In 2017, then Mayor Bill deBlasio elected to close down Rikers Island, New York City’s main jail complex within 10 years in favor of a “smaller, safer, fairer” program. In its place welcomed the Borough Based Jail system that will “create a network of four modern, more humane jail sites in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx”.[1]

The Manhattan based jail is sited to be in the heart of Chinatown, by demolishing and expanding the already existing Manhattan Detention Center. This has been met with intense pushback and public protest from the Chinatown community against the construction of the jail.

Following the disproportionate social and economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, existing trends of gentrification and displacement in Manhattan’s Chinatown, this essay attempts to detail the history of the project and the impact on the Chinatown community.


This item is currently under embargo. It will be available starting 2025-06-26.

More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Slater, Thomas S. J.
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
August 2, 2023