Flushing, a Main Street Center of the World
You'll learn about:
- New York City as the nation's largest City has significant central business districts outside of Manhattan that rival most major American cities. The intersection of Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue sees the third most pedestrian foot traffic in all of New York. Walk and see the diversity of this "outer borough" Main Street.
- The challenges of a vital commercial, social, and cultural center growing in the shadow of Manhattan.
- The foundational role Flushing played in the social and commercial growth of the City and the nation that dates back to the 17th Century as center for cultural diversity and rights dating from its original settlement and tour related historic buildings such as a Quaker Meeting House.
- The growth of Flushing into the 21st century as an example of the contemporary immigrant experience with the related social, cultural, investment, and redevelopment opportunities it presents.
- The challenges of this "Main Street" growth and the public investments needed to facilitate and support that revitalization.
Present day New York City was originally settled as a Dutch Colony not just in Lower Manhattan, but in Vlissengen, now called Flushing, first settled in 1645. Russel Shorto wrote about New Netherland in "Island at the Center of the World" which told how the principles of immigration, free trade, individual rights, religious freedom, and ethnic diversity shaped this settlement. A symbol of that religious freedom is the Flushing Remonstrance, which was a 1657 petition to the Director-General Peter Stuyvesant, in which some thirty Flushing residents sought an exemption to his ban on Quaker worship and advocated for freedom of conscience for all people, including Jews and Muslims. The Flushing Remonstrance was the first document in American History to expound the principles of religious freedom and is therefore considered a predecessor to the Bill of Rights.
In the 1970s, Flushing became a center for Chinese and Korean immigrants and based on the 2010 Census, is about 70 percent Chinese and Korean and 15 percent Hispanic (Colombian and Salvadorans). The surrounding neighborhoods are home to people of Irish, Greek, Italian, Indian, Sri Lankan, and Malaysian heritage. Recent immigration has reinvigorated Flushing with new restaurants, nightlife, markets, education and social centers, banking, apparel, and other commercial enterprises and the Flushing Lunar New Year Parade is a growing regional celebration. Moreover, some 350 years after the Remonstrance, Flushing continues as a center for religious diversity with numerous Buddhist temples and churches, the Quaker Meeting House, Free Synagogue, Hindu Temple Society of North America, and the Muslim Center of New York and it is estimated that there are over 200 places of worship. Many standing landmark buildings tell this history, including Flushing Town Hall, the Bowne House, Kingsland Homestead, Old Quaker Meeting House, St. George's Church , and the Free Synagogue.
Today, Flushing is the third busiest place in the City, surpassed only by Times Square and Herald Square. The resulting pedestrian and transit traffic has led the City to obtain federal funds for sidewalk widening and transit improvement projects, and replacement of municipal parking with redevelopment, each of which will be shown during the workshop.