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When Ray Chen moved to Dyker Heights from Sunset Park in 1998, he was seeking his version of the

American Dream: better schools, a safer neighborhood and a bigger living space. Some residents of this historically Italian area, however, were apprehensive at first about the influx of Chinese newcomers into their neighborhood, which borders both Sunset Park and Bensonhurst. Chen, a 49-year-old real estate developer, said that he received complaints from neighbors when he showed houses to Asian clients in the late ‘80s. “The people were not welcome. They [neighbors] didn’t want them to see homes,” he said. Stanley Ng, 53, a member of the Citywide Council of High Schools, moved to Dyker Heights from Bensonhurst 15 years ago when he wanted to buy a home. What he found, though, was that homes in the 80th block between 10th and 11th Avenues were off-limits to Asian buyers. He now lives on the 70th block where several Chinese families live. “At the time, they wouldn’t sell to us,” said Ng, in a phone interview. “That told me we weren’t welcome on the block back then.” Yet in spite of some early apprehensions, from 2000 to 2010, the Chinese population in Dyker Heights swelled from 6,073 to 12,149, a 100 percent increase, according to New York City census data. Unlike other South Brooklyn communities with larger populations of new Chinese immigrants—Sunset Park and Bensonhurst have 39,952 and 47,105 Chinese residents respectively as of the 2010 census—Dyker Heights is a destination for those seeking a better quality of life after they’ve been in the United States for a few years. To the newly affluent immigrant community, Dyker Heights stands out for its winding blocks of neatly maintained homes—many with their own yards—low crime rate and proximity to traditionally Chinese neighborhoods. This is in sharp contrast to densely populated immigrant communities like Sunset Park where newcomers often contend with more crime and few housing options other than rentals. Steve Chung, president of the United Chinese Association of Brooklyn, said that many of the Chinese buying homes in Dyker Heights are well-established business owners and professionals looking to own their own homes. He said the reactions from locals toward the current wave of Chinese homebuyers have been positive. “Residents are likely to welcome them because they drive up real estate values. They are a wealthier group—they bring in value,” said Chung in a phone interview.

Louis Liu, 51, a real estate agent in Dyker Heights, estimates that 80 percent of the home sales he makes in the area are to Chinese buyers, who often purchase a twofamily home so that half of it can be rented out for extra income. “It is a tradition in Chinese culture to own property. They like the area because they are into education and, overall, Dyker Heights is a very safe area,” said Liu in a phone interview. According to New York City Department of Education High School admission data, 92 Dyker Heights’ students were admitted to selective high schools like Stuveysant and Brooklyn Tech in 2012, ranking them #8 among other zip codes within the city. Other high-ranking neighborhoods included the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Sheepshead Bay and Borough Park. In contrast to neighborhoods like Sunset Park that have a strong Mandarin-speaking community of immigrants from Fuzhou—a city in southern China—where “you don’t even need to speak English,” Liu described Dyker Heights as having “more Cantonese or English-speaking, second- or third-generation residents.” Bob Brannigan, 63, the owner of B & A Pork Store on 13th Avenue, has been in Dyker Heights for 38 years. He said the neighborhood has changed over the years, but the changes haven’t been reflected much in his clientele. “It’s practically a Chinatown on 8th Avenue [Sunset Park]. They mostly shop up there,” he said, referring to Chinese residents of the neighborhood. Businesses up and down 11th Avenue also reflect the changing community. Lee Li, 37, opened Red Sun Clothing Store two months ago. He’s lived in the neighborhood for three years since emigrating from China with his wife, daughter and parents. His store, which has a mostly Chinese clientele, serves a need in a growing community of new arrivals. “Chinese people need smaller sizes,” he said.

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