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Asian American Heritage Week 2014: Brooklyn's Second Chinatown Expands in Bensonhurst

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As NY1 continues its celebration of Asian American Heritage Week, Brooklyn borough reporter Jeanine Ramirez takes a look at Brooklyn’s second Chinatown in Bensonhurst. She filed the following report.

Named for Cristoforo Colombo, 18th Avenue was once the heart of an Italian community. The street sign remains. But the streetscape has changed.

"You can see countless bakeries especially in the 18th avenue neighborhood. Before it was all pizzeria, now it's all Chinese bakery,” said Warren Chan of Asian Senior Day Care Corp.

Warren Chan opened three senior centers over the last three years in Bensonhurst, calling the area Brooklyn's second Chinatown. He offers all kinds of social services including English classes.

"Anybody can come in here, got a letter from Social Security, got a letter from IRS, anything, they can just come here and then we'll provide the translation service, if they don't understand,” said Chan.

The Department of City Planning says Bensonhurst has more than 31,000 residents who were born in China. A van sets up on Bay Parkway every Wednesday to sign those residents up for healthcare.

"This community has a large amount of growing Chinese population, especially immigrants starting to live here. That's why we decided to show our presence here, to help local Chinese community, seniors especially,” said Jay Chen, a WellCare Medicare Benefit consultant.

Bensonhurst is a short train ride away on the N line from Brooklyn's first Chinatown in Sunset Park. The Chinese community started to build in Sunset Park back in the 1980s and is now home to at least 150,000 Chinese.

"Not only do we have the highest Chinese population in the city of New York, I think we have the highest birth rate in the city of New York,” said Paul Mak of the Brooklyn Chinese-American Association.

Sunset Park was primarily a Cantonese speaking population. Now the newest immigrants are coming from the FuzHou area speaking Mandarin. With rapid growth and little space in Sunset Park, many Chinese are moving south to Bensonhurst and nearby Dyker Heights like Ivy Chai.

"Many Chinese and when I go out it's like our hometown. Many people speak the same language,” said resident Ivy Cai.

A couple of more stops on the N train brings New Yorkers to Sheepshead Bay in what's quickly emerging as the borough's third Chinatown.

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