2023 Undergraduate Research Showcase


Jail Blocked: The Fight Against the Jailscraper in Manhattan’s Chinatown and the Broader Implications of Urbanization on Ethnic Enclaves

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date


Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Christopher Courtheyn


Chinatowns have historically been a dumping ground for unwanted land uses within cities and despite mass protests, their voices have continued to be overlooked even today. In Manhattan’s Chinatown in 1982, protests sparked against the creation of a new jail which was then completed in 1988. Then in 2017, Mayor Deblasio launched a new plan to destroy Riker’s Island in place of new jails in four of New York City’s boroughs, Chinatown being one. Since, mass protests have arisen to stop the demolition of the current jail site and the creation of the new 300-foot tall “Jailscraper.” Neighbors United Below Canal (NUBC) has emerged as the leaders in this movement, bringing attention to the concerns of Chinatown residents and the way in which injustice towards them continues. This project outlines the greater needs of the Chinatown community, the policies and infrastructure that have driven historical injustices to still be present today, and the economic and health impacts that the “Jailscraper” will have on the surrounding area. The qualitative analysis of media reports, interviews, letters, and speeches, has been designed to better understand the issues driving this movement forward and the way in which this fight in Manhattan is connected to larger trends putting Chinatowns across North America at risk.

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