This content was created in partnership with Chinatown Runners, a collective of runners around the world coming together in solidarity with AAPI communities and beyond. For more information on how to get involved visit the Chinatown Runners website or follow CTR on Instagram.
On Sunday, May 15, Chinatown Runners, in partnership with Bridge Runners, will be hosting an 8k run that will start at 176 Delancey Street on the Lower East Side and end in Koreatown as a way to celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. The runs are an activation to bring runners and running crews together to traverse through and celebrate AAPI neighborhoods, respecting their rich history while providing them with economic support.
“We’ll go through Manhattan’s Chinatown a bit, and then snake upwards to this tiny quadrant of the East Village that’s colloquially known as little Tokyo,” says Victoria “Vics” Lo, the founder of Chinatown Runners. “Then we’ll continue north and end in Koreatown for karaoke and dinner. There will be prizes: Brooks Running has generously donated two $100 gift cards and there will be an opportunity to win three Ciele hats—they’re red and look really sick.”
This route is meant to include intersections of East Asian cultures that are linked within a 3.5-mile distance. Lo sees the route as a form of being able to tell a story about the way you can traverse different cultures and worlds on foot in such a short distance.
“Most of the time our routes highlight just one culture, so it’s a little bit more ambitious for the month because of what May symbolizes,” Lo says. “But I also think that’s what makes it special and I really hope people come out for it.”
Snapshot: Manhattan’s Chinatown
The beginnings of Chinatown in Manhattan formed during the 1870s, when Chinese immigrants in New York City started to build a community around Mott Street, south of Canal. At the time, white laborers and political leaders used Chinese immigrants as scapegoats for declining wages and high unemployment, eventually leading to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which restricted Chinese immigration to the U.S.
Barred from protections, Chinese immigrants established their own structures to provide their community jobs, medical care, and housing. Although various exclusion laws were lifted in the 1940s, it wasn’t until the 1965 Immigration Act abolished a quota system that discriminated against Asians and many other non-Western groups from entering the country that a new wave of Chinese immigrants began arriving to the U.S., expanding Manhattan’s Chinatown into what it is today.
Around the start of the route’s 5k start, runners will pass by Foley Square, a prominent protest site. Early this year, members of the AAPI community gathered there in sub-freezing temperatures to voice their support for victims of anti-Asian hate crimes.
Turning up Broadway, runners will eventually cross Canal Street, Chinatown’s main drag lined with street vendors, bubble tea shops, restaurants, and bakeries.
What we love in this neighborhood:
Nom Wah Tea Parlor (13 Doyers St.) is one of the oldest eating establishments in Chinatown, having been around for at least a century.
Golden Fung Wong Bakery (41 Mott St.) has also been around for generations and specializes in hopia, a bean paste-filled pastry.
The Original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory (65 Bayard St.), serves up flavors like black sesame, lychee, and taro.
Cantonese restaurant Uncle Lou (73 Mulberry) offers big plates of pan-fried noodles, crispy garlic chicken, tofu skin wraps and more to share around big round tables with turntables.
To learn more about the history of the neighborhood, stop by the Museum of Chinese in America (215 Centre St.)
Snapshot: The East Village’s Little Tokyo
One of the first Japanese residential communities in New York City formed around the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where early Japanese immigrants worked as domestic laborers around the Yard or on battleships. Later, Japanese communities expanded to Manhattan’s Upper West Side, and in the late ‘70s and ‘80s, made a presence in the rough and tumble era of the East Village.
The area soon thrived as center for Japanese food and culture, with a Japanese market arriving in the ‘90s in addition to bars, sushi restaurants, noodle shops, and Euro-Japanese bakeries.
“There’s a small concentration of Japanese businesses, restaurants, and izakayas that are all within a short few blocks in the East Village,” Lo says. “There were some Japanese immigrants who bought property there and that explains why this tiny segment of the East Village has so many Japanese businesses.
On the route, runners will approach Little Tokyo around the 3-mile mark while running east on 8th Street toward 2nd Avenue.
What we love in this hood:
Hasaki (210 E. 9th St.) has been around since 1984 and still serves one of the best omakase sushi in the area. Kenka (25 St. Marks Pl.) is an izakaya known for serving street-food fare like takoyaki, grilled skewers, and okonomiyaki.
Decibel (240 E. 9th St.) specializes in sake and bar snacks in its basement den. Hi-Collar (214 E. 10th St.) serves specialized Japanese coffee in intricate tea cups by day and bespoke cocktails on its copper-topped bar by night.
Snapshot: Midtown South’s Koreatown
Similar to the growth of Manhattan’s Chinatown, a large wave of Koreans immigrated to the U.S. starting in the late ‘60s as a result of the 1965 Immigration Act overturning the immigration quota system.
In New York City, many of these immigrants settled near Manhattan’s Garment District, opening grocery stores, dry cleaners, and other businesses. By the late ‘70s, a Koreatown formed in Midtown South, primarily serving the Korean community. Later, a large Korean enclave grew in the northeastern part of Flushing, Queens.
“Koreans are split between Manhattan and other boroughs and neighborhoods,” Lo explains.
The Chinatown Runners route will end in Koreatown, after running up 5th Avenue and turning left on 32nd Street toward Greeley Square.
What we love in this hood:
Jongro BBQ (22 W. 32nd St.) is a favorite Korean barbecue spot among locals, offering large platters of marinated meats to grill that’s great for big groups.
For homestyle Korean flavors, Her Name Is Han (17 E. 31st St.) bills itself as Korean “soul food,” offering fire-grilled beef, rice cakes, and seafood soup.
Pelicana (11 W. 32nd St.) is one of the biggest Korean fried chicken chains in Korea and has gotten raves from food critics.
And of course, Koreatown wouldn’t be Koreatown without karaoke bars, and Maru Karaoke Lounge (11 W. 32nd St. 3rd and 4th Floor) is designed to look like it’s straight out of a science fiction film, offers a large food and drink menu, and all your favorite hits for a night of belting.