You might have heard the term a “melting pot” to describe New York City. Why is it called that way and what are the most diverse neighborhoods in this city? Let’s explore.
If you live in New York City, then you already know how diverse the city is. Full of people with different backgrounds, ethnic groups, cultures, food, ways of life, and much more. Despite being essentially made up of islands, NYC is one of the most densely populated cities in the United States with about 8,398,748 residents, which adds up to about 28,210 people per square kilometer.
Of these 8 million people living in the city, about 37% of residents, or 3 million people are foreign born. In terms of some race demographics, 24.3% are African American, 29.1% Hispanic or Latino, 13.9% Asian, 47.2% White. It is important to note that these percentages don’t reflect the different ethnic groups that make up these racial categories!
So why is NYC so diverse? This may be because this city has always been the epitome of opportunity and the American Dream. Due to this, many people flock to NYC yearly to live the big city life. Additionally, New York was also the primary port of entry for the United States for many years where the majority of immigrants entered the U.S. through Ellis Island in New York. The heaviest periods of immigration can be seen from the late 1800s to 1930s, where some settled down in the city while others moved.
With the many different immigrants that have settled in NYC over the years, they have created their own ethnic enclaves in different neighborhoods. These ethnic enclaves make NYC a hotspot because they provide support to new immigrants from their home countries even to this day!
What does it mean to be a diverse neighborhood?
Now that we know just how diverse NYC is and how it came to be, what does it really mean for a neighborhood to be diverse? A diverse neighborhood can be seen as one with different ethnic groups, histories, and cultures living together in harmony.
The best neighborhood in NYC could be one that features all the amazing aspects of having people of different backgrounds living together! This includes various languages spoken, ethnic-based communities and cultural centers, various markets and restaurants that feature ethnic foods, and different ways of life. So where are these neighborhoods located and where are the most diverse places to live in New York City?
The most diverse neighborhoods in New York CIty
If you’re looking to rent or buy in New York City, maybe an ethnically diverse neighborhood is what appeals to you most or maybe you’d like your children to go to a diverse school district in NYC. So how do you know which neighborhood is for you and your family? And what is the most diverse neighborhood in NYC? We’re here to talk about a few neighborhoods you might like to check out!
Jackson Heights, Queens
First on our list is Jackson Heights located in Queens! So why is Jackson Heights the most diverse neighborhood? There are about 178,022 people living in the neighborhood and features culturally diverse architecture, restaurants, and stores. Of this population, 63% of the people are foreign born.
Fun Fact: There are 167 different languages spoken in this neighborhood.
Jackson Heights was first developed with the idea of being a place where middle to upper-middle class workers could move to escape the crowded Manhattan area. With this in mind, many garden city apartment buildings were created, which are apartments built around parks. However, after the Great Depression, the apartments in the area became more affordable which allowed more people with different backgrounds to move in.
During the 1920s to 1950s, various people from different backgrounds moved into the area. This includes the LGBTQ community, businessmen from Latin America, and professionals from the Indian subcontinent. Currently, Jackson Heights is home to many ethnic groups such as Colombian, Ecuadorian, Argentinian, Indians, Pakistanis, Tibetans, Nepalese, Bangladeshis and many more! Even today the Jackson Heights neighborhood is constantly changing in culture and demographics.
Brighton Beach, Brooklyn
Brighton Beach located in Brooklyn is another diverse place to live and is known for their Russian immigrants. It’s located in the southern area of Brooklyn and is within the Coney Island area so it borders the Atlantic Ocean and beaches. It features many immigrant-oriented restaurants, schools, banks, offices, and much more. Since it borders the beach, is it also a popular summer destination for New Yorkers.
There are about 49,681 living in this neighborhood. The majority, 72.9%, of residents are foreign born and aout 36.1% of the overall population does not speak or understand English. Of the population currently living in Brighton Beach, the majority (69.7%) of them are White.
Fun Fact: Due to the historic Soviet culture in Brighton Beach, Muslim immigrants from Central Asia also speak Russian.
Brighton Beach first started as a resort and hotel area. However, by the 1930s, it started to turn into a residential neighborhood with many apartment buildings being built. Those who immigrated to the area during the time were Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. These immigrants set the stage for the large waves of immigrants from the Soviet Union entering during the 1970s. Due to this, the neighborhood became known as “Little Odessa” or “Little Russia”.
Fun Fact: Brighton Beach has an annual festival called the “Brighton Jubilee” that celebrates the neighborhood’s Russian-speaking heritage.
Chinatown is a neighborhood located in the Lower Manhattan area and features the highest concentration of Chinese people outside of Asia. This neighborhood is also one of the oldest Chinese ethnic enclaves and is divided into two portions. The western portion is the original and older part of Chinatown in Manhattan and its residents are mostly Cantonese populations. These are immigrants mainly from Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Taishan in Guangdong Province. The other portion is called Little Fuzhou Chinatown, located on the East Broadway area, and is made up of people from the Fujian province of China who arrived in the 1980s and 90s.
Fun Fact: New York City has nine Chinatowns and the big three includes Chinatown in Manhattan, Flushing, and Sunset Park. The others are more like mini Chinatowns that are in different stages of development!
Currently there are about 150,000 residents living in Chinatown and the neighborhood features over ten distinct Asian cuisines such as Cantonese, Szechuan, Thai, Japanese, Indonesian, and much more! Additionally, there are many ethnic-based shops such as Chinese traditional medicine, martial arts, tea houses, bakeries, dim sum, and supermarkets. Other than their hundreds of restaurants, Chinatown also features garment factories and a jewelry district.
Woodside is a neighborhood located in the Western area of Queens. It features many different cultural restaurants and pubs and also has NYC’s most popular Thai, Filipino, and South American restaurants. Parts of the neighborhood are quiet and more residential while other areas are busier and more urban.
Woodside, Queens started off as a farming area but due to improved transportation, it began to cater to residential buildings for those working in the surrounding boroughs. In the 1860s, Woodside became the largest Irish American community in Queens due to large-scale residential development and by the 1930s, about 80% of residents were Irish. As a result, the Irish culture has been maintained even to this day. During the 1990s, there were also a lot of Asian Americans moving into the neighborhood and the ethnic demographics shifted to be 30% Asian.
Within Woodside, there is also “Little Manila” that is made up of the neighborhood’s Filipino American community. This ethnic group makes up about 15% of the neighborhood’s population and in this area there are many Filipino-owned businesses. These businesses include medical, dental, beauty salons, immigration services, and many more.
Fun Fact: Due to the diversity in the neighborhood, it holds many festivals and street fairs including a Saint Patrick’s Day parade.
Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn
Sheepshead Bay neighborhood is located in the southern part of Brooklyn and is bordered on one side by the Atlantic Ocean. It is mostly residential with more family attached homes in the Western and Eastern areas of the neighborhood and more condos and co-ops found in the center. In fact, along with single family beach bungalows, you can find some fancy real estate in the area with some of the most extravagant single family homes in Brooklyn along Ocean Parkway.
Fun Fact: Sheepshead Bay is the name of the bay itself as well as the neighborhood. It was named after a fish found in the bay’s water!
The two largest ethnic enclaves found in Sheepshead Bay are ones formed by the Chinese and Soviet immigrants. Most of the Russians and Central Asians can be found along the waterfront and Brooklyn’s Chinatown is partially in Sheepshead Bay and Homecrest. However, other ethnic groups also living in this neighborhood are Albanians, Turks, and Hispanics.
This neighborhood originally started as a summer destination as a fishing area with restaurants and hotels. However, by the 1940s, its fishing and farming communities were redeveloped into residential buildings and Jewish and Soviet immigrants moved in. In the 1980s, it’s ethnic demographics moved from mostly Irish and Italian to be a more diverse neighborhood.
Fun Fact: Sheepshead Bay has a higher ratio of college-educated residents than the rest of NYC with about 47% of them having a college education or higher!
Woodlawn, The Bronx
Woodlawn, which is also known as Woodlawn Heights, is a neighborhood located in the northern part of the Bronx. It’s residents are mostly working class Irish Americans and its enclave is still a haven for Irish immigrants today. The Emerald Isle Immigration Center and Aisling Irish Community Center in Woodlawn are sources for newly arrived Irish immigrants as well as ones who are now established in the United States. Along with the Irish, there is also a small community of Italian Americans living in Woodlawn.
This neighborhood is filled with ethnic shops with Irish products, Irish restaurants and pubs, an Irish pastry shop, Italian bakeries and restaurants, and other ethnic-based shops. Woodlawn is also sometimes referred to as “Little Ireland”.
Fun Fact: The Woodlawn neighborhood has several old and picturesque churches and some even hold mass in both English and Italian.
Tompkinsville, Staten Island
Tompkinsville is a neighborhood located in the northeastern part of Staten Island and is considered part of the North Shore. Compared to other areas, this neighborhood is more urban with its architecture being mainly tall brick buildings and has various retail stores and restaurants. Additionally, Tompkinsville has many live music and art venues which includes cafes, studios, tattoo shops, and art galleries.
Fun Fact: Tompkinsville was the site of a Naval Frontier Base of the U.S. Navy for many years.
The Tompkinsville neighborhood consists mainly of three races: Whites, which are mainly Irish, Italian, Albanian, and Russian), African Americans, and Hispanics. It also has one of the largest Sri Lankan communities and has developed a “Little Sri Lanka”. The neighborhood also has a growing Mexican community which could be a result of the large arrival of Mexican immigration during the 1990s that was centered on Port Richmond and Tompkinsville.
Fun Fact: This neighborhood area was first known as “The Watering Place” because in the early 1600s, colonial navigators would refill their ship’s water supply in a spring located in the northeastern part of Staten Island.
If you’re looking to buy a house in the most diverse place, look no further than New York City! While we only named a few, there are plenty of other ethnically diverse neighborhoods in the NYC melting pot that is full of rich culture and heritage.
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