Woodside, Queens (Little Manila)

When I first moved to New York City I knew I was in for a huge culture shock having grown up in the suburbs of Cleveland. I had spent the entirety of my life driving down roads populated by two-story homes along Lake Erie. After 18 years of consciously staying in that comfort zone, I had grown accustomed to the affect of a quiet, suburban lifestyle.

According to Teresa Brennan in her essay, “The Transmission of Affect”, affect is the social, physical and emotional construction of a relationship between oneself and his or her environment. Jane Bennett, the author of “Vibrant Matter”, emphasizes the importance of non-human objects and materialism and their affect through efficacy, trajectory and causality on people.  The best word to describe my relationship with my environment and the non-human objects I was surrounded by was “comfortable”. Being completely aware of this feeling growing inside me, I was extremely nervous to begin a life in New York.

My parents were in a very similar situation when they immigrated to the United States. They had both grown up in Manila and knew absolutely no one when they moved to New York. My dad was doing his residency after Medical school and my mom was a flight attendant. The combination of a loud, bustling urban landscape coupled with the uneasiness of being away from home created an affect of anxiety within them. From what they told me I know that this was an extremely difficult time in their lives. However, this is probably true of all immigrants who move to New York with no sense of belonging.

That anxious feeling lived with them until they found Roosevelt Avenue in Woodside, Queens. Also known as Little Manila. Here they found a community of Filipino immigrants that were going through similar experiences and maybe even hardships that they could lean on. I had only been to this neighborhood once in my life during a campus visit to NYU with my parents. But I had never taken the opportunity to go by myself until this project.

 

One of my favorite parts about living in New York is that every ten blocks it’s like you’re in a completely different city. That was the immediate reaction I felt when I got off the train on 61st Street and Roosevelt Avenue in Woodside. I began walking along Roosevelt trying to take everything in. I noticed how the entire neighborhood was run by small locally owned businesses and the largest corporation along the block was probably the Jollibee, my favorite Filipino fast food chain!

jollibee

When I walked into the Jollibee for quick chicken and pasta I had this strange feeling of familiarity. After sitting down with my food one of the employees began talking to me in Tagalog. Since I can’t speak a word of my parent’s native tongue, this quick interaction kind of confused me. However, it also left me with a sense of belonging. I’ve never been out of place at NYU, but over the years the feeling of comfort I felt in Ohio was never replicated in New York.

Walking up and down Roosevelt Avenue I was comfortable. Being surrounded by Filipinos and Filipino Americans just like I had been growing up brought that same feeling of comfort. I can only imagine how important this enclave has become to the Filipino immigrants as well as the Filipino Americans that live there. That feeling I felt must be a very prevalent aspect of their lives.

Unfortunately, over the past few years, there have been continued plans to that would result in taking away from the Filipino community. Just a few years ago, a Filipino community center located on 59th street had closed down due to increasing costs of residential and commercial spaces. Just last year, the Fil-Am and greater Woodside community successfully rallied against the expansion of a “mega-church” in a yearlong battle.

Expansion plans also include a new five-story building that would, according to Fil-Ams in Woodside, alter the look and feel of the neighborhood. One of the immediate impacts that this would have on the neighborhood is the 3-year long construction process. Taking away parking would have negative effects on the small businesses that and eateries that rely on customers from outside the neighborhood.

While the Filipino and Woodside community works hard against these types of expansion projects, the threat of gentrification and displacement can be as devastating for the Filipino immigrants who rely on the security and stability of a cultural enclave. There are certain cultural aspects that make up Little Manila that no other neighborhood in New York can provide its Filipino citizens.

 

Miguel P.

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~ by migspoblete1029 on September 25, 2018.