Flushing: Rain Gardens and Supermarkets

In the past year, hundreds of bioswale, known to the residents as “rain gardens,” have been constructed in Flushing, the rapidly expanding Chinese neighborhood, without the residents’ consent, as government and official organizations insisted that the bioswales will improve the environmental issues within the neighborhood. However, immediately after I typed “bioswale” into Google’s search box, I got amused by the self-contradictory title of the news posted by the New York Times: “To the City, a Pollution Fighter. To Some Residents, an Eyesore.”

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No matter how well a fairytale of the magical rain garden is told, it loses its credibility to the public in face of the harsh reality. If I have not researched the accurate location of the rain gardens, some of which are built on the neighborhood’s main street, I would totally have ignored it as some random rusted wrought-iron fences. The “gardens” do have plant – few tree trunks and dead grass. If there is any color, it will be that of the plastics bags, empty bottles, and some other waste of human-made products.


Are the rain gardens the only victims of human waste in Flushing though? No, the residents are quite “generous” in terms of spreading the trash all over the place, including some public green areas. I saw an empty smoking package in the grass, several trashes hidden behind fences. pigeons are not as lucky as the ones in Washington Square Park, as what they can mostly find are cigarette butts on the ground.


Yet it is not strange to see a Chinese neighborhood in New York to be kind of dirty and messy. Like other Chinatowns, Flushing, despite its recent development, is still heavily based its economy on food-related business, including supermarkets, restaurants, and street vendors. Walking along the main street, I have seen a bunch of similar supermarkets, each filled with consumers.


Now, try to imagine yourself walking into a Chinese supermarket, not a big-chain store like Wholefoods: you heard immediately the chatting from the elders discussing which type of apples taste the best and how sweet the grapes are; you will also constantly hear the sound of people checking out at the counters; you smell the mixed scents of raw vegetables, fruit and meat; you saw varies types of food, packed and unpacked, spreading in front of you, and then you see others hurrying to the counters, trying to get the best discount… It is hard not to consume and join the party in the dizzy and bustling world of desire.


The garden built in front of a supermarket is suffering while you are enjoying your desire to spend money. Rather than being appreciated as a green installation, the bioswale is crowded with two bicycles – apparently, it is used as a parking spot by the locals. Many plastic bags from the supermarkets were also left in the bioswale by the customers rather than being thrown to the black trash cans.


In “Vibrant Matter,” the author believes such consumerism is anti-materiality, saying that “It hits me then in a visceral way how American materialism, which requires buying ever-increasing numbers of products purchased in ever-shorter cycles, is anti-materiality. The sheer volume of commodities, and the hyper-consumptive necessity of junking them to make room for new ones, conceals the vitality of matter (Bennett, 5).” I recalled his words as I walked through the different supermarkets operating in Flushing, which are constantly creating “earth-destroying fantasies of conquest and consumptions (Bennett, 7)” among the residents.


The residents might have considered the junks as meaningless and lifeless, but the junks themselves know they are vibrant actants. The plastic bags are dissolving, making plant nowhere to live; the fruits are decomposing too, attracting rats, and flies… All these seemingly subtle forces are closely related to big issues in environment and health, yet they are constantly ignored in the neighborhood.



Work Cited:

Bennett, Jane. “Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things.” Duke University Press, 2010.










~ by yixiliu97 on February 27, 2018.

One Response to “Flushing: Rain Gardens and Supermarkets”

  1. Learning Affect- I do not only learn how the supermarkets actually contribute to the pollution of the rain gardens and how bad the effect actually is.

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